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Papa John’s killer sentenced

Jul. 14—GOSHEN — Jose Benitez-Tilley Jr., 20, appeared earlier than Elkhart County Circuit Court docket Decide Michael Christofeno for a sentencing listening to — and left with a jail sentence of greater than a century.

After initially making an attempt to refuse to look, Benitez-Tilley, who’s charged with two counts of homicide in reference to the capturing deaths of Dustin Carr and Haley Smith whereas the 2 have been working the closing shift at a Papa John’s restaurant in Elkhart Feb. 12, however Christofeno informed Todd Horner, an officer with the Elkhart County Correctional Facility to forcibly carry him in.

“Here is the problem I’ve,” Christofeno mentioned. “The sentencing must be, as I perceive it in individual, except there are extraordinary circumstances which I’ve not heard. And I additionally haven’t heard that Mr. [Benitez-Tilley] waves his proper to be sentenced in individual at a listening to. He must wave his proper to attend his sentencing listening to and I have not heard him doing that.”

Benitez-Tilley Jr.’s public defender, Jeffrey Majerek, informed the choose that Benitez-Tilley had knowledgeable him Wednesday that he could be refusing to attend additionally, as a result of he didn’t need to hear what individuals needed to say about him.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker informed the courtroom that she believes victims have a proper to be heard and Benitez-Tilley ought to be compelled to attend the trial. At the very least half a dozen relations of Carr and Smith have been in attendance to supply a Pre-Sentence Influence Assertion.

“Your cowardly, pointless act of violence has impacted my household’s life endlessly,” Allen Smith, Haley Smith’s father, learn. “You stole Haley’s future. She was simply getting married subsequent 12 months to Dustin. Do you know that? They have been planning to have a toddler and begin a household of their very own. You stole my likelihood to stroll my daughter down the aisle, to have my final dance with my daughter, to observe her change into a mom. You stole my likelihood to satisfy my grandchildren…”

Tilley pleaded responsible June 16. He was additionally dealing with one rely of tried abuse of a corpse, a Stage 6 felony, which was dismissed within the plea discount.

The our bodies of Carr, 37, and Smith, 22, have been found behind the restaurant at 1532 Cassopolis St. by an worker at round 10 am the day after the shootings. The Elkhart County Murder Unit was then known as in to research.

In keeping with courtroom paperwork, Benitez-Tilley Jr., a former worker of the restaurant, was arrested after legislation enforcement reviewed video surveillance from the night time of the murders and an worker of the restaurant was capable of establish him from a nonetheless picture.

“He is the one brother I’ve,” Amber Kinnison, Dustin Carr’s older sister, mentioned. “You don’t deserve any sort of forgiveness for what you probably did to my household. You’ll not get it…. He by no means did something. He was a great child…”

Struck by emotion, Kinnison was unable to complete her speech.

Through the investigation, police have been informed that Benitez-Tilley Jr. had visited the restaurant at roughly 10 pm Feb. 12 to inquire about employment. He then allegedly left and returned to the restaurant later that night, at which period he used a handgun to kill Carr and Smith.

Benitez-Tilley was sentenced to a complete of 130 years for 2 counts of homicide, pursuant to the plea settlement.


—Aleyda Vazquez, who was charged with dealing methamphetamine, was confronted with a dangerous continuing Thursday.

As an immigrant, Christofeno knowledgeable her that he couldn’t safely sentence her to neighborhood corrections different placement and that any try to switch the sentence may danger deportation.

“I feel it is a entice for self-represented litigants” he warned her. “I am telling you this as a result of the sentence now turns into between you and me and I am doing to respect your choice as as to if you need to proceed to serve time underneath the division of corrections or modify your sentence, understanding the legislation that modification of your sentence may lead to you being deported.”

Vazquez informed the courtroom that she has lived in the USA for her whole life, and in response to courtroom data, skilled just one different run-in with the legislation in her lifetime, associated to driving historical past.

Christofeno knowledgeable Vazquez of her proper as a overseas citizen to have the consulate of Mexico help along with her case, however Vazquez requested for the sentencing to undergo. She was sentenced to fifteen years within the Indiana Division of Corrections with no different placement, by means of the Restoration Whereas Incarcerated program, on the discretion of the division of corrections.

—After a failed try at pleading responsible final week, Paul Throesch pleaded responsible to inflicting demise whereas working a car with a managed substance within the physique throughout Thursday’s courtroom session.

The fees stem from a four-vehicle crash by which investigators mentioned Throesch, as one of many drivers, pulled out from a gasoline station subsequent to the Six Span Crossing buying heart and into the trail of an oncoming field truck on CR 17 close to the Ind. . 120 intersection on Oct. 2, 2018, in response to particulars within the possible trigger affidavit within the case.

The autos collided, and the crash pushed the field truck into the alternative lanes the place it was then struck by an SUV pushed by Vincent Spirito of Elkhart. Spirito’s SUV was then rear-ended by one other oncoming SUV. Spirito was injured within the crash, and he later died at an area hospital, police mentioned.

Whereas on the hospital, investigators had blood drawn from Throesch and examined. Evaluation from a blood draw on the hospital confirmed Throesch had a marijuana metabolite in his system, in addition to a sedative with ranges “outdoors the therapeutic vary,” the affidavit acknowledged. A detective famous that Throesch had a prescription for the sedative.

—Zachary Pontius is once more being reassigned to a different choose for the second time, having first skilled a battle when Teresa Cataldo vacated the case in Dec. 2021. On Thursday, after informing Pontius of his personal historical past with earlier circumstances of Pontius’, he, too, could be vacating the case.

Pontius has a number of earlier circumstances together with youngster molestation and sexual battery in 2002, failure to register as a intercourse offender in 2006, armed theft and routine felony offender in 2008, home battery in 2013, in addition to a number of driving-related incidents.

Pontius faces three Stage 1 felony counts of kid molestation after accusations have been made to Elkhart County police in June 2020 for incidents that occurred in Sept. 2019. He allegedly touched a toddler inappropriately three totally different instances, in response to data within the possible trigger affidavit in that case.

—Jake Brunette remains to be awaiting the outcomes of a competency analysis scheduled in February.

Brunette is charged with killing Andrew Conley, 23, Nov. 17, 2021, after police responded to a name from a person who’d mentioned he’d been stabbed throughout a battle at Monarch Cellular House Park within the 2300 block of Cassopolis Road round 7:55 am After giving him first support on the scene , medics started transporting the person to an area hospital, however he died en route.

Brunette’s court-appointed public defender, Matthew Johnson informed the courtroom in February that Brunette has a historical past of lengthy stints in in-patient remedy for each psychological well being and drug points.

His trial was continued from Aug. 15 to Feb. 6, 2023. Brunette requested if he may very well be given a sooner date, however Christofeno knowledgeable him that the choice was not out there till the analysis outcomes are in and it’s decided whether or not or not Brunette may even want a listening to on competence.

Reporter John Kline contributed to this report.

Dani Messick is the schooling and leisure reporter for The Goshen Information. She could be reached at or at 574-538-2065.

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