GOSHEN – It took an Elkhart County jury more than five hours to decide three teenagers killed their friend, even though they didn't pull the trigger.
17-year-olds Blake Layman and Levi Sparks and 19-year-old Anthony Sharp were part of a group who burglarized an Elkhart home last year while the homeowner was there.
The verdicts came in around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
At midnight, raw, uncontrollable agony poured out of the Elkhart County Courthouse.
"It's a bunch of bull" was one family member's reaction. "Go catch people who really murdered somebody."
Moments after learning her son's fate, Layman's mother collapsed.
For some, words to describe their despair were hard to find.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill was unmoved by what he saw and heard, which included swearing at him.
"It was a very difficult case, a very important case, because it sends a message to those that committed the crime, and we feel the jury did the right thing," Hill said.
On the other hand, Sparks' attorney, Vincent Campiti, said, "It's difficult to win criminal cases in this county, and it's difficult to win when you have a prosecutor and a prosecuting attorney that will take these tough kind of cases and take the hard position on these."
Surrounded by police officers and security guards, the prosecutor escorted jurors to their cars. They had nothing to say about the case or their decision. But some of them cried and were visibly shaken when the judge read the verdict.
"I don't think it's fair at all," said Sparks' father, Jerry.
The judge called the case "hotly contested and very strenuous on everyone involved."
During instructions Thursday evening, the judge told jurors if they didn’t think there was enough evidence to convict the boys for murder, they could have found them guilty of burglary.
Or… the jury could have vindicated the teens.
The judge gave the jury the case at 6:20 p.m.
Shortly after that, the boys' friends and family members met outside the courthouse for a prayer.
This has been a very long week.
Jury selection lasted more than 14 hours Monday.
Those jurors sat through three days of, at times, pretty intense testimony.
Now, it's up to them to decide whether three teenage boys accused of breaking into a house with two of their other friends should be convicted murderers.
“Nervous, very scared,” was how Layman’s mother, Angie Johnson described her feelings Thursday night before the verdict. “Undecided what the jury’s thinking in this. I don’t think the state had a very great case. I’m hoping the jurors will have a soft heart.”
“It’s just hard to take it in, knowing he could be gone for some years,” added Sharp’s brother, Ladrew Taylor.
If jurors had found them guilty of burglary, they would have faced up to 20 years.
The teenagers each face up to 65 years in prison when they're sentenced on September 12.
As of right now, it's not clear, it will if the teens will try to appeal.