It was a burglary that went terribly wrong inside an Elkhart home.
The four teenagers who did it are going to prison for murder, but they didn't kill anyone. The homeowner shot and killed one of their friends in self-defense. Now, lawmakers are starting to talk about the law that allowed the prosecutor to charge the boys with felony murder.
Emotions exploded outside the Elkhart County courthouse in Goshen the night Blake Layman, Levi Sparks and Anthony Sharp became convicted murderers.
"People breaking into homes - whether there's someone there, whether there's someone not there - it's got to stop," said Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill at a news conference when he charged four boys with murder last fall. "And from our standpoint, we're going to use every available measure under the law to stop it."
In this case, Hill did. He charged the boys with murder since 21-year-old Danzelle Johnson died while his friends committed a felony even though they didn't have a gun or pull the trigger.
"These boys did commit a crime, but they did not kill someone," said Layman's mom, Angie Johnson.
She still struggles with the tough law Hill used to convict her son.
"We've never said they didn't do anything wrong. We expected a burglary charge or anything to that fashion that they can get through that and learn from this," she added.
"The jury in this case had the opportunity to make a determination of whether or not felony murder was the right choice, whether burglary was the right choice or whether there was no crime at," Hill said outside the courthouse after a judge sentenced the boys. "Whatever the jury decides is what we live with."
Hill says charging people under the felony murder law is not unusual. He uses it 'quite often.'
WSBT found the St. Joseph County prosecutor has convicted more than 10 people under the same law since 2008. A recent example: a violent home invasion on Michigan Street last December. Police say one of the men who broke in stabbed a woman who lived inside the home. She died two weeks later, but the prosecutor charged all 5 with murder. That's typically how the law is applied.
But what makes it unique to other felony murder cases is the fact that the victim - the homeowner - killed one of the intruders in self-defense, not the other way around.
"If you actually read the statute, the language of the statute probably would not apply to the kids in this case," explained State Representative Ryan Dvorak (D - South Bend).
But Dvorak said the way Indiana's Supreme Court interpreted the law in other cases means it does apply to the Elkhart kids.
Dvorak sits on Indiana's Courts and Criminal Code Committee. Those lawmakers talk about criminal laws and work to rewrite many of them. He also sits on the state's Judicial Committee. He says word about this controversial case is making its way downstate.
"Not one of them killed anybody, not one of them pulled the trigger or used a knife that caused someone to die so it doesn't make a lot of logical sense as to why they should be charged with murder. Those two things need to be resolved and we'll talk about it in the legislature for sure," he added.
Meanwhile, Johnson's fight continues. She's spent hours researching felony murder laws and the appeals process, and she vows to keep fighting for her son, creating awareness until there's a change.
"I just think that this wasn't justice in any way," she said.
Earlier this month, a judge sentenced Layman and Sharp to 55 years in prison for their roles in the home invasion and murder. Sparks got 50 years because he served as the lookout across the street and may not have ever gone inside the home. Jose Quiroz took a plea deal shortly after the home invasion happened. He's serving 45 years.
Layman, Sharp and Sparks all told the judge they intend to appeal. Their attorneys have to file paperwork with the state by mid-October.
This week, Layman's family started an online petition at Change.org to abolish the felony murder law in Indiana.