Chesterton Tribune

Portage man formally charged in dragging death of Sheri Jania

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The Portage man accused of dragging a Shift Change Tap bartender to her death beneath his car on Saturday has been formally charged.

Meanwhile, James Lohman III, 49, of 314 Jacobs, is blaming his front-seat passenger for causing him to strike Sheri Jania, 45, in the parking lot of the Shift Change.

On Tuesday, Lohman was charged with the following:

•Leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury or death while operating while intoxicated, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20 years.

•Reckless homicide, a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight years.

•OWI causing the death of another person, also a Class C felony.

•Criminal recklessness with a motor vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor.

Lohman was being held today without bond at the Porter County Jail.

In his probable cause affidavit, Cpl. C. Barnes of the Burns Harbor Police Department describes arriving on the scene to find “a purse and possibly its contents strewn all over the parking lot,” then being told by frantic witnesses that Jania “was under the car” occupied by three subjects and heading westbound on U.S. 20.

Barnes followed in an attempt to locate the car, until he noticed traffic slowing in the area of Salt Creek Road, where he observed “a female in the roadway with severe injuries.”

“It was apparent to this officer from the female’s injuries that she was dead,” Barnes stated in his affidavit.

Barnes continued westbound on U.S. 20, after a firefighter from an unidentified agency stopped to secure the scene at Salt Creek Road, then heard from dispatch that Portage Police had taken the suspect—later identified as Lohman—into custody in the area of Old Porter Road and Fourth Street.

Barnes himself transported Lohman to the Portage Police station, en route to which “Lohman stated, with no prompting from this officer, that he would cooperate fully and in any way that he could.”

“Lohman went on to say,” Barnes stated, “that (his) front-seat passenger put his leg over to the driver’s side and placed his foot over Lohman’s foot and pushed on the gas pedal, (causing) him to run over the girl. Lohman stated that he would sign papers stating this, but he would need protection from the passenger, who he advised was a high-ranking gang member.”

“Lohman then asked if he would be given a deal if he helped us and cooperated,” Barnes further stated, noting that Lohman wanted specifically to know whether—if he proved to be over the legal alcohol limit—“he would get that reduced if he cooperated.”

“This officer then told Lohman that he had no authority to make deals or promise him anything,” Barnes stated.

Lohman—who Barnes said showed signs of intoxication—initially refused to submit to any testing, then later agreed to submit to field sobriety testing. Lohman passed two field sobriety tests, failed one, and registered a blood alcohol content of .106 percent on a portable breath test but refused to submit to a certified chemical test, Barnes said.

But blood and urine tests were conducted in any case at Porter hospital “due to the injuries sustained” by Jania, Barnes stated. The Indiana State Police later collected the blood and urine samples.

Witnesses in the parking lot of the Shift Change gave this account of the incident, Barnes stated. Jania was observed yelling at the occupants of Lohman’s car to stop. She was also observed “standing behind the car yelling out the license plate number to the bartender working at the time.”

The driver then put the car in reverse and Jania “moved out of the way” and to a position “in front of the vehicle to the left,” Barnes stated. At that point the driver “put the car into drive,” “cut the wheel sharply to the left,” “then floored it and . . . ran Jania over.”

The “car stopped for about 10 to 15 seconds and someone opened the door,” Barnes stated, but as “everyone was screaming that Jania was under the car,” the driver “exited the parking lot with the vehicle floored with spinning tires.”

The car left “blood smears on the ground,” Barnes added.

Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel told the Chesterton Tribune today that no charges have been filed against Lohman’s front-seat passenger nor are any currently being contemplated.





Posted 9/7/2011