Chesterton Tribune



Porter teen sentenced to 62 years in Portage 2014 murder

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By the Associated Press

and the Chesterton Tribune

The Porter man convicted of murder in the death of the man he shot in front of his wife and children in December 2014, after being discovered rifling the man’s car in Portage, has been sentenced to 62 years in prison.

Thomas Reichler, 19, was found guilty by a jury in August of murdering Alex Tapia, 36, after Tapia had interrupted Reichler while he was going through a vehicle parked at Tapia’s residence. Reichler was also found guilty of two counts of theft and one count of attempted theft.

In sentencing Reichler to 62 years, Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper cited his lengthy criminal history which started with an arrest at age 11 for arson and burglary.

Reichler told the court, before being sentenced, “I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.”

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 Tapia, armed with a handgun, surprised the three. Sipe and Izynski fled but Reichler, still inside Tapia’s vehicle, was caught off-guard, police said.

Tapia “was able to gain control” of Reichler and was attempting to lead him to the front porch of the house pending the arrival of police officers, when Reichler, armed himself, fired one round at Tapia’s head, missing him, then a second into Tapia’s 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 that gun to Reichler for a different one which Reichler had stolen only two hours before the shooting, from a vehicle parked in the 100 block of Taylor Street, 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 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 had the option of finding Reichler guilty of manslaughter but opted instead for murder.

Murder is punishable by a term of 45 to 65 years, with an advisory sentence of 55. Harper sentenced Reichler to nearly the maximum possible, 62, with sentences for the three other guilty counts to run concurrently. Under Indiana Code, Reichler will be required to serve at least three-quarters of the 62 years: that is, to 46 years, six months, at which time Reichler will be nearly 67 years old.

Sipe, for his part, has pleaded guilty to attempted theft, in exchange for which he would be sentenced to one year in jail with all but time served--five actual days--suspended and the balance served on probation. Two other criminal charges against him would be dismissed: aiding a criminal and theft.

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



Posted 10/24/2016




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