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Former Copper Penny bar owner gets year probation

Updated: May 15, 2013 6:16AM



A Highland man who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in which he admitted to cleaning up a crime scene after a murder at his now-closed Hammond bar was placed on probation for one year.

Steve Dennis Hekkel, 41, admitted he started to clean up blood from the floor on Jan. 13, 2011, shortly after Ernesto Ramirez stabbed Victor Adams, 34, of West Lafayette, inside the Copper Penny Bar at 7105 Kennedy Ave., Hammond. Hekkel also admitted he picked up the knife with a napkin and walked back toward the outside beer garden. Hekkel also mopped up the bar, as shown on video surveillance.

In addition, Hekkel instructed his employees to clean the bar before police arrived. The cleanup included throwing a rug by the front door over a fence. The rug contained DNA belonging to the victim and another individual involved in the fight in which Adams was stabbed.

Hammond police learned of the stabbing through friends of the victim after they arrived at the hospital. About 30 minutes after the murder, Hammond police arrived at the Copper Penny. The bar smelled of bleach and the floors were wet.

Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. accepted the terms of the plea agreement, which called for the sentence of one year on probation and for the conviction to be entered as a misdemeanor.

Hekkel must submit to random drug testing through the probation department and complete a program for batterers.

A separate case of domestic battery was dismissed because the victim, who has a child with Hekkel, refused to cooperate.

Ramirez, 32, is serving a 64-year prison sentence for murder and criminal gang activity.



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