Chesterton Tribune



Appeal rejected of former Porter man convicted of 2014 murder

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal of the Porter man convicted of murder last year in the death of the man he shot in front of his wife in December 2014, after being discovered rifling the man’s car in Portage.

Thomas Reichler, 20, is currently serving a 62-year sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction.

Reichler--whose attorney argued at trial that the jury shouldn’t find him guilty of murder because he acted in self-defense when he shot Alexius Tapia, 36--appealed his conviction on the ground that Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper erred when she refused to give the jury the option of finding him guilty on a lesser included offense of reckless homicide.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals rejected Reichler’s argument, in an opinion which begins with a rehearsal of the facts of the case. Among those facts: in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, 2014, Reichler--along with Nathaniel Todd Sipe, now 22, at the time a Jackson Township resident, and Korey Izynski, now 21, at the time a Chesterton resident--were walking through Tapia’s neighborhood in the 6000 block of Mill Run Ave., looking for unlocked vehicles to steal from.

Reichler, in possession of a handgun stolen from an unlocked vehicle in Chesterton only three days earlier, “brandished (that weapon) periodically” as the three were walking, the Courts notes in its decision. His companions also quoted him at the trial as saying he felt “on top of the world” and “I could kill anyone.”

At 5:30 a.m. Tapia discovered Reichler inside his vehicle--prompting Sipe and Izynski to flee the scene--and armed with his own handgun confronted Reichler. The two “briefly scuffled” but Tapia was able to grab hold of Reichler by the collar and then told his wife to call the police.

Tapia’s own video surveillance recording shows what happened next: “As (Tapia) was pulling Reichler, Reichler pulled out his handgun, pointed it at the back of (Tapia’s) head at arm’s length, and fired. The shot missed. Next, (Tapia) turned around and Reichler fired again, striking (Tapia) in the abdomen. (Tapia) returned fire and shot Reichler once, striking him in the left wrist and right arm.”

While Tapia lay on the ground bleeding to death in front of his wife and children, Reichler fled the scene himself but was subsequently taken into custody by Portage Police at a Michigan City hospital.

In rejecting Reichler’s argument, the Court notes the following distinction: the act of murder “requires proof of a mental state of intentionally or knowingly killing another person,” that is, proof that the person “is aware of a high probability” that his or her action will result in another’s death; while reckless homicide requires “proof of a mental state of recklessness,” that is, proof that the person is acting in “plain, conscious, and unjustifiable disregard of harm that might result.”

Under those standards, the Court states, “We cannot conclude that the jury could have determined that Reichler committed reckless homicide but not murder or voluntary manslaughter. Hours before shooting (Tapia), Reichler had brandished a gun while claiming he could kill anyone. When (Tapia) caught him, he later indicated that he was afraid of being beaten up but never said he was afraid of being killed. (Tapia) told Reichler he would have to stay until the police arrived, which a reasonable person should have interpreted as an indication that (Tapia) did not intend to kill or seriously injure Reichler.”

“In response,” the Court continues, “the recording shows Reichler aimed the gun at the back of (Tapia’s) head from arm’s length and fired. When (Tapia) turned around Reichler fired again, shooting him in the stomach. Reichler told Sipe and the police he had aimed at (Tapia’s) head for the first shot. He also stated he just wanted to get away.”

“This evidence establishes that Reichler shot twice at (Tapia) knowing there was a high probability that (Tapia) would be killed, rather than that he fired without regard for the risk of (Tapia’s) death,” the Court concludes.

Reichler is currently incarcerated at the Miami Correctional Facility. His projected release date is Sept. 14, 2068, when he will be 71.



Posted 11/3/2017




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