Of the four charges filed against James Lohman III—the man accused of
dragging Shift Change Tap bartender Sheri Jania to her death on Saturday—the
most serious is this one: 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.
Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel told the Chesterton
Tribune today that—given the Burns Harbor Police Department’s account of
the incident as reported in the probable cause affidavit—neither a murder
charge nor a voluntary manslaughter charge is applicable in this case.
Murder is punishable by a term of 30 to 60 years; voluntary manslaughter,
when committed with a deadly weapon, a Class A felony punishable by a term
of 20 to 50 years.
The legal test for murder is “knowingly or intentionally” killing a person,
Gensel said, and proving in court what Lohman knew he was doing or intended
to do while behind the wheel—as police in the probable cause affidavit said
Lohman was —would be very difficult.
The legal test for voluntary manslaughter, on the other hand, is “acting
under sudden heat,” Gensel said. “You find your wife in bed with another man
and kill him, that’s the classic case of sudden heat.”
In order to prove sudden heat, however, the state has to establish the
presence in the accused of a “severe” provocation or duress, Gensel said,
“and in this case there is no evidence that sudden heat played into what
“The case is still under investigation, though,” Gensel added.
Meanwhile, Coroner Chuck Harris reported the results today of an autopsy
conducted late on Wednesday in Mishawaka by Dr. Joseph Prahlow.
Cause of death: “multiple severe injuries,” Harris told the Chesterton
Tribune, primarily to the front of Jania’s body but also to the back and
The most chilling finding, however, is this one: forensic pathologist
Prahlow’s opinion that Jania did not die immediately after being struck by
the vehicle which police say Lohman was driving when he fled the Shift
Change, and that she was not rendered immediately unconscious by the initial
impact, Harris said.
“I was honestly hoping I could tell you that (Jania) was unconscious” after
being hit by the car, Harris said. “But I can’t. It was one of the worst
things I’ve ever seen. It was a slow death. It was pretty much like
The driver, Harris added, “absolutely had to know” that Jania had been
caught under the car’s undercarriage and was being dragged beneath it.
The suspect vehicle—a 1997 Mercury Cougar two-door—has been taken into
custody and processed for evidence, Harris said.
According to the BHPD, Jania—a bartender at the Shift Change off duty on
Saturday—asked Lohman to leave the bar around 4 p.m. because one of his two
companions was a 14-year-old boy. Jania then followed the three into the
parking lot and tried to prevent them from leaving, after learning that they
had reportedly been involved in a disturbance earlier in the afternoon at a
Burns Harbor home, police said.
Jania at first took a position behind Lohman’s car to get his license plate
number, police said, but was forced to move to a position to the front and
left of it after Lohman put the Cougar in reverse. At that point, police
said, Lohman “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,”
police said, but even as “everyone at the scene was screaming that Jania was
under the car,” the driver fled the parking lot, “vehicle floored with
Lohman advised after being taken into custody that his front-seat passenger
was to blame, that the 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,” police said.
Gensel told the Tribune on Wednesday that no charges have been filed
against Lohman’s front-seat passenger nor are any currently being