A Portage man has admitted being in control of the car which dragged Shift
Change bartender Sheri Jania to her death in 2011.
On Monday, James Lohman III, 50, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an
accident, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20 years; and
operating while intoxicated-causing death, a Class C felony punishable by a
term of two to eight years.
Under the plead-and-argue arrangement, Lohman could face a maximum sentence
of 28 years, if Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford were to order him
to serve the term for each count consecutively.
Two other counts against Lohman—reckless homicide, also a Class C felony,
and criminal recklessness with a vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor—would be
Sentencing is scheduled for May 6.
Lohman remains in custody at the Porter County Jail. Bond has been set at
According to Burns Harbor Police, around 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011,
three people—including Lohman and a 14-year-old boy—entered the Shift
Change, located at the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 20 and Ind. 149.
Long-time bartender Jania—who was off duty at the time—informed the three
that juveniles were not permitted in the bar and they would have to leave.
The three did exit the Shift Change, BHPD said, but Jania subsequently
learned that the three had been involved in an “altercation” at a residence
near the bar. She contacted police, then exited the Shift Change herself,
and took a position near Lohman’s 1997 Mercury Cougar in an effort to get
the plate number, BHPD said. At that point Lohman, with his two companions
in the vehicle, began to back up and Jania moved in front of the Cougar,
Then, as former Burns Harbor town marshal Jerry Price told the Chesterton
Tribune at the time, Lohman “flat ran over her.”
The “car stopped for about 10 to 15 seconds and someone opened the door,”
BHPD said, but as “everyone was screaming that Jania was under the car,” the
driver “exited the parking lot with the vehicle floored with spinning
The car left “blood smears on the ground,” BHPD said.
Lohman continued westbound on U.S. 20, dragging Jania, whose body was
finally dislodged near Salt Creek Road, 1.2 miles from the Shift Change,
Lohman, meanwhile, continued to flee was but was taken into custody near the
Oaks Mobile Home Park by Portage Police.
Lohman, for his part, initially told investigators 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,” BHPD said. Lohman added that he “would sign papers” to that effect
but would “need protection from the passenger, who he advised was a
high-ranking gang member.”
Lohman subsequently registered a blood alcohol content of .106 percent on a
portable breath test but refused to submit to a certified chemical test,
At the time Marshal Price called the incident “the most despicable,
heartless act I’ve ever seen.” And he remembered Jania as the “peacemaker,
the sense of reason when the alcohol was flowing.”
In the opinion of Dr. Joseph Prahlow, the forensic pathologist who conducted
the autopsy, Jania did not die immediately after being struck by the car and
was not rendered immediately unconscious by the initial impact, Porter
County Coroner Chuck Harris told the Tribune after the autopsy.
“I was honestly hoping I could tell you that (Jania) was unconscious” after
being hit by the car, Harris said at the time. “But I can’t. It was one of
the worst things I’ve ever seen. It was a slow death. It was pretty much
The driver, Harris also said at the time, “absolutely had to know” that
Jania had been caught under the car’s undercarriage and was being dragged