By Vivian Sade
CHURUBUSCO — A South Whitley man sentenced in Whitley Circuit Court Monday will spend the next four years in prison after a jury found him guilty on May 13 of reckless homicide.
David Hagan, 62, had shot and killed Adam Porter, 29, in the backyard of Hagan’s South Whitley home on Aug. 14, 2015, and maintained that the shooting was in self-defense.
Tonya Porter, the victim’s mother, read a prepared statement.
“You said you shot a deranged drug addict and alcoholic, but he was a son, brother, grandson and friend. He had his share of struggles, but those struggles did not define who he was,” Porter said. “Just because he was an addict does not mean he deserved to die.”
Porter said in her job working with developmentally disabled adults, they sometimes ran into her son.
“He always went out of his way to help, joking with them, helping them out or into vehicles or in some other way. They remember him as a kind, loving person,” she said. “He was an unarmed man having a peaceful discussion in your backyard with your longtime girlfriend (Vonda Kelsey). It was premeditated. You shot him in the head in front of a young child he cared for and protected.
“It was a cold, calculated murder and you have shown no remorse,” Tonya Porter said.
Dan Porter also submitted a statement to the court and took the stand to testify about how the loss of his son devastated him.
“My son was a heroin addict and suffered with that illness, but he was a good, hard working man,” Dan Porter said. “He showed up for work every single day and never missed a day.”
Porter, who worked with his son, said that other companies used to try and hire his son away from him because he was so dependable.
“He was never late and was a hard worker,” he said. “He was a good man who did not deserve to be murdered.”
Hagan’s attorney, Patrick Arata, said Hagan “did not knowingly do this in front of a child.”
Arata cited Hagan’s lack of a criminal record before the shooting, said he was at low risk to re-offend and pointed out that Kelsey, his partner of 25 years, was ill. Based on those factors, Arata asked the court to consider a three-year sentence with one year to serve and the rest suspended.
Prosecuting attorney Matt Rentschler countered, saying Hagan has shown absolutely no expression of remorse and has never apologized to the Porter family.
“In fact, (Hagan) blames everyone but himself,” Rentschler said. “He blames Adam, he blames the court system for not dealing with Adam. But Adam is dead and the suffering was much worse in Adam Porter’s life than in David Hagan’s.”
“This county has too many conflicts, large and small, to count, but this one is different because alcohol and firearms were combined in a dangerous way and David Hagan refuses to accept responsibility for Adam Porter’s death,” Rentschler said.
Hagan declined to speak when asked if he had anything to say before being sentenced.
Circuit Judge James Heuer addressed Porter’s mother and father before handing down a sentence.
“My deepest sympathies go out to Adam Porter’s parents,” Heuer said. “I accept how much pain you are in.”
“It is a little frustrating to me that reckless homicide is a Level 5 felony, but the case went before a jury and this was their verdict and I accept that,” he said. “Based on set criteria, there is not a basis for the maximum sentence (six years).”
Citing aggravating circumstances including alcohol abuse, three misdemeanor convictions and the fact that Hagan committed a crime of violence in the presence of a 5-year-old child, Heuer sentenced Hagan to three years plus another year for the aggravators.
The four years must be served in its entirety in the Indiana Department of Corrections, Heuer said, adding that Hagan must also pay the Porter family $5,355.30 restitution for funeral expenses.
In other court news:
Ashley Tillberry, 19, of Warsaw pleaded guilty to a Level 5 felony of dealing methamphetamine and a misdemeanor charge of delivering marijuana on March 9 to a confidential informant. Tillberry also pleaded guilty to a Level 6 felony of selling a substance that was represented as a controlled substance (methamphetamine) on March 16 to the same confidential informant. At the time, she was on probation for an attempted theft charge that occurred in July 2015. She will be sentenced July 11 and faces 1-6 years. As part of a plea agreement, two charges will be dismissed and the sentences for all three charges will run concurrently.
Vincent Isaac, 50, of Osceola pleaded guilty to a felony charge of burglary after he was caught on camera breaking into a Columbia City store and stealing cigarettes and other merchanise in April.
Heuer cited Isaac’s criminal record of nine felonies and six misdemeanor convictions as aggravators. Isaac sidestepped a mandated habitual offender enhancement because the felonies were committed in multiple states. “If this does constitute career criminal behavior, I don’t know what does, Heuer said. Heuer sentenced Isaac to three years plus two years for aggravating factors and ordered the five years be served in its entirety in the DOC. Isaac must also pay $6,192.98 in restitution to his victims. As part of a plea agreement, a second count of theft was dismissed.