A judge sent three teenagers to prison for decades Thursday for their role in a murder. But those three young men did not fire the gun that killed their friend.
Judge Terry Shewmaker gave 17-year-old Blake Layman 55 years, 18-year-old Levi Sparks 50 years (he was the lookout during the burglary and didn't go inside the house) and 19-year-old Anthony Sharp 55 years.
A jury convicted the trio of murder last month after the homeowner shot and killed one of their friends, 21-year-old Danzele Johnson – nearly a year ago.
The teenagers will likely end up serving half their sentences, if that, because of day-for-day credit in Indiana. The judge also recommended drug counseling for the three boys since they were high on marijuana the day the home invasion happened.
But their fight isn’t over.
The boys’ families waved goodbye as they left the courthouse for prison.
“Stay strong, buddy!” yelled one family member.
“We’re gonna continue to fight!” chimed another.
“I don’t feel it’s justice,” said Layman’s mom, Angie Johnson. “These boys are facing a lot of years for something they did not commit.”
“It’s very sad, it just makes me want to cry right now thinking about it,” echoed Sharp’s brother, LaDrew Taylor. “It’s just unbearable.”
Shewmaker acknowledged the strong community controversy surrounding the case but said, “There were five of you acting together and there was one victim, [the homeowner]…. four of you entered his dwelling. That is not a fair fight, four versus one… and that bears on your character."
The judge also told the boys this crime likely would not have happened if they hadn’t been kicked out of public school for fighting or talking back to a teacher, as the three had been.
Shewmaker noted he received and read 22 letters supporting Layman. One, he said he read ‘over and over again.’ It was from one of Layman’s family members and said the family had failed Blake by not being there for him in the past.
“There are those who want to blame everyone else,” Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Vicki Becker told the judge. “The State of Indiana absolutely believes there is a solution. The solution is appreciating other people's privacy, other people's sanctity."
Layman and Sharp spoke publicly for the first time about their involvement in the crime when the judge gave them an opportunity to do so before sentencing. They apologized to all the families involved and the homeowner, who stopped sleeping in his home of 18 years the day the shootings happened.
Both boys said they don’t think they’re guilty of murder.
Sparks did not speak in front of the judge.
The judge also asked each teen if they plan to appeal and all three said they do. They must file their intent to appeal in the next 30 days.