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Indiana Court of Appeals upholds murder convictions in 1998 Hammond triple slaying

Sales of justice. (Stock image/Pixabay/Nomevisualizato)

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday upheld the murder convictions of a man in the killings of a woman and two teens who were bludgeoned to death in 1998 in a house in northwest Indiana.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appeals panel rejected several arguments offered by James Higgason III, 53, of Whiting, including a long delay in bringing him to trial and the use of a digital copy of a phone call linking him to the killings, instead of the original cassette recording.

Higgason was sentenced to 180 years in prison.

Prosecutors alleged Higgason and David Copley, 47, beat Elva Tamez, 36, Jerod Hodge, 18, of Chicago; and Timothy Ross, 16, of Calumet City, Illinois, to death on Jan. 18, 1998, at the woman’s Hammond home with pieces of wood or metal pipes, according to court records. They were trying to get drugs and cash, prosecutors said.

The victims’ skulls were bashed in a drug-fueled “frenzy,” Deputy Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Jovanni Miramontes said at the time.

Defense lawyers Mark Gruenhagen and Matthew Fech said the evidence against Higgason was thin and testimony by Copley wasn’t credible because he reached a deal with prosecutors.

Copley pleaded guilty to Hodge’s murder last year and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. In exchange for his testimony, prosecutors dropped two other murder charges.