Chesterton Tribune

Valpo man convicted of murdering woman

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A Valparaiso man has been convicted of murder in connection with the death of his girlfriend in 2008.

On Friday a jury found John Norris guilty of the murder of Elizabeth A. Lepucki, who died on the evening of June 19, 2008, at the University of Chicago Hospital of blunt force trauma to the head and skull, resulting in swelling to the brain.

Murder is punishable by a term of 30 to 60 years. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26 before Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa.

Norris himself did not testify at his trial and his defense attorney presented no witnesses, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tammy Gregg told the Chesterton Tribune today.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Det. John Ross of the Valparaiso Police Department, at 6:38 a.m. June 19, 2008, an officer was dispatched to Norris and Lepucki’s apartment at 7 Weston St. in response to a report of an unconscious female. On his arrival, police said, the officer made contact with Norris, who advised that Lepucki had been out the previous night with friends, had reeked of alcohol when returning home, had initiated sex with him, and then gone to sleep. When he woke in the morning, Norris advised, he found Lepucki unconscious and called 911.

Lepucki was transported to Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus, police said, and on further investigation the responding officer determined that Norris had called Lepucki’s employer at 5:50 a.m. that day and informed her that Lepucki had been in a car accident the previous day, that she had been released from the hospital, and that he had found her unconscious in the morning.

Ross stated in his affidavit that Lepucki tested negative for alcohol and drugs but that, in addition to swelling on the left side of the face, bruises and abrasions on her neck, and bruises on her arms and legs, she was suffering from “significant swelling of the brain and was comatose.” Lepucki was subsequently airlifted to the University of Chicago Hospital.

When interviewed, Ross stated in his affidavit, Norris continued to maintain that he did not know how Lepucki was injured but admitted lying to Lepucki’s employer about her being in a car crash.

When Ross informed Norris that Lepucki was not expected to survive, however, Norris began to sob and finally advised that he was responsible. “Norris stated, ‘I did it’ and ‘I killed her,’” Ross stated.

Norris then gave this account of events, Ross stated: on the previous afternoon he met a man named Isaac at the Family Express who needed to use the phone; he invited Isaac to their apartment, where Isaac began flirting with Lepucki; Norris told Isaac to leave, then confronted Lepucki and slapped her twice; the second time she spun around, fell down, and hit her head on the dresser and wall in the bedroom.

Ross stated that several items of evidence were recovered from the apartment, including torn and bloody bedclothes which had been concealed, what appeared to be blood on the bed and walls of the bedroom, a portion of the bedroom wall where the drywall had been broken and hidden by a bag, and a large clump of apparently human hair in the kitchen trash can.

In his closing argument, Norris’ attorney maintained that his client should not have been charged with murder but instead with involuntary manslaughter, Gregg noted. “We decide what charge is filed based on the evidence and in this case murder was the appropriate charge,” Gregg said. “And obviously the jury thought so as well.”

Gregg added that both the University of Chicago neurologist who treated Lepucki and the Cook County, Ill., Medical Examiner’s Office testified that Lepucki’s injuries “were much more severe than two slaps and a fall could have caused,” Gregg said.

In July 2002 Norris was convicted of sexual battery and was listed on the Lake County Registry of Convicted Sexual Offenders.



Posted 2/1/2010