Chesterton Tribune



Porter man found guilty of 2014 murder

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A Porter man has been convicted of murder in the death of the man he shot in December 2014 after being discovered rifling through the man’s car in Portage.

Thomas Reichler, 19, with a listed address on Strongbow Trail, was found guilty late Thursday night by a jury following a four-day trial.

Reichler was also found guilty of two counts of theft and one of attempted theft.

According to police, in the early morning hours of Dec. 12, 2014, Reichler and two other Dunelanders, Nathaniel Todd Sipe, now 21, of Jackson Township, and Korey Brandon Izynski, now 20, of Chesterton, were looking for unlocked vehicles in the 6000 block of Mill Run Ave. when Alex Tapia, 36, armed with a handgun, surprised the three. Sipe and Izynski fled but Reichler, still inside Tapia’s vehicle, was caught off-guard

Tapia, armed with a handgun, “was able to gain control” of Reichler and attempted to lead him to the front porch of the house pending the arrival of police officers. But Reichler, armed himself, fired one round at Tapia’s head, missing him, then a second into his torso, police said.

Tapia, mortally wounded, returned fire, hitting Reichler above his left wrist and in his right arm but not incapacitating him. After dropping his weapon at the scene, Reichler fled down the street to where Sipe had parked his vehicle and together the two waited as EMS treated Tapia, police said. Then Sipe drove Reichler to a hospital in Michigan City for medical treatment.

Investigators subsequently discovered, after recovering the handgun used by Reichler, that it had been stolen three days earlier by Izynski from an unlocked vehicle in the 600 block of North Calumet Road in Chesterton. Izynski, however, had traded the Ruger to Reichler for a FN Herstal semi-automatic pistol which Reichler had stolen only two hours before the shooting, from a vehicle parked in the 100 block of Taylor Street in Chesterton, police said.

The key issue of the trial turned on Reichler’s intent: did he knowingly, intentionally fire the shot for the purpose of killing Tapia?

Reichler’s defense attorney, Larry Rogers, argued that events transpired too quickly for intent to form in Reichler’s mind, that Reichler was fearful of being harmed by Tapia, and that his only thought was to defend himself.

Prosecutors argued that Reichler’s having armed himself in the first place, in the attempted commission of a theft, then firing the initial round at Tapia’s head, fully proved his intent.

The jury did have the option of finding Reichler guilty instead of a lesser offense, manslaughter.

Porter County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel released the following statement this morning to the Chesterton Tribune: “We believe the jury made the right decision in finding the defendant guilty of murder, holding him accountable for the consequences of his actions. It was a senseless, cowardly act that deprived Krystal Tapia of a husband and his four children of a father. We extend our condolences to the Tapia family and gratitude to the Portage Police Department for their hard work in the investigation.”

Murder is punishable by a term of 45 to 65 years, with an advisory term of 55 years. Reichler will be required under Indiana Code to serve at least three-quarters of his sentence, at least 41.25 years, that is, if sentenced to the advisory term.

Sipe, for his part, has been charged with attempted theft, theft, and assisting a criminal. Those charges are pending. Sipe did testify against Reichler at trial this week.

Izynski--the man who police say actually stole the murder weapon--pleaded guilty last year to two counts of theft and was sentenced to time served in jail awaiting disposition. In November 2015 Izynski was charged with burglary, in an unconnected case. That charge is pending.


Posted 8/5/2016





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