jessicapichon

Jessica Pichon, of East Chicago

Provided

CROWN POINT — A 28-year-old woman from Danville, Illinois, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felony counts of resisting law enforcement for participating in the high-speed police chase in February that ended in the death of a 13-year-old Whiting girl.

Jessica S. Pichon pleaded guilty in Lake Criminal Court to resisting law enforcement, a level 3 felony, and resisting law enforcement, a level 5 felony.

The state agreed to dismiss charges of reckless homicide and other lesser counts as part of the plea agreement. The state also agreed to dismiss unrelated charges alleging Pichon failed to register as a sex offender.

Jessica S. Pichon admitted at the plea hearing in Lake Criminal Court she participated in the high-speed chase Feb. 15 that killed Julianna Chambers and injured the girl's grandmother, Theresa Paramo.

The defendant allegedly stole a case of beer from an East Chicago grocery store and jumped into a vehicle operated by co-defendant Donnell Howard Jr., according to a probable cause affidavit.

A police officer attempted to stop the defendants, but ended up almost pinned against another vehicle after the defendants sped off from the scene, the affidavit states.

The man and woman fled from police in their vehicle before eventually crashing into Paramo's vehicle at Columbia Avenue and Gostlin Street in Hammond, the affidavit states.

The outcome of the crash raised questions about whether police from East Chicago and Hammond should have terminated the pursuit sooner.

Gabriela Erica Vasquez, the legal guardian of Paramo, filed a lawsuit in May against the cities of East Chicago and Hammond, as well as the individual officers involved in the police pursuit, alleging the officers engaged in “negligent and reckless conduct” by continuing the pursuit through crowded city streets, despite the incidental nature of the crime.

The lawsuit was removed to federal court, but the plaintiff is seeking it be remanded back to Lake Superior Court. The plaintiff is asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Howard, 32, of Highland, rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors in September. He is scheduled to appear at trial Jan. 16.

Pichon is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7.

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Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.