Death penalty trial against Gary man opens

2013-01-07T21:00:00Z 2013-01-08T12:41:04Z Death penalty trial against Gary man opensSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
January 07, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Prosecutors opened their death penalty case against a Gary man Monday by telling jurors he ended his marriage in 2007 by murdering his wife and her two teenage children.

When the three were shot to death Aug. 7, 2007, twelve years and one day had passed since Kevin Isom married wife Cassandra in 1995 in a ceremony where her father officiated and her children, then ages 1 and 3, attended, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Urbanski said.

Cassandra Isom, 40, had been shot multiple times — including once in the head at close range — inside the couple's Miller Beach apartment, Urbanski said in his opening statements. Found dead not far from their mother were 13-year-old Ci'Andria Cole and 16-year-old Michael Moore, he said.

Kevin Isom, 47, is charged with three counts of murder and the attempted murder of four police officers. If convicted, Isom's fate will be solely in the hands of the jury, who may sentence him to death, life without parole or a specific number of years in prison.

Neighbors called 911 after hearing gunshots about 10:30 p.m., he said. An off-duty Gary police officer who had heard the alerts on his radio was the first of more than a dozen officers to respond to a barrage of gunshots that continued even as officers arrived at the scene.

Shots were fired directly at three of the responding officers, Urbanski said.

Cassandra Isom and her children were discovered inside the front door by a SWAT team, which gained entry after about four hours, he said. Isom was found on a bedroom floor sitting up at the base of a bed, he said.

Ignoring orders to show his hands, officers Tasered Isom with no results before felling him with blows to the head, Urbanski said.

Found in the waistband of Isom's jeans was a fully loaded .357-caliber handgun, Urbanski said. Beneath him or near him were another handgun and a shotgun, he said.

Evidence would show the guns were used to shoot Cassandra Isom and her children, and the blood on Isom's jeans belonged to the victims, Urbanski said.

No one else was seen coming or going from the apartment, he said.

Isom's attorney, Herbert Shaps, told jurors the defense would reveal the state lacks evidence against Isom, who has no memory of the events.

"The memory loss continues today," he said.

Memory loss is consistent with post-traumatic stress syndrome and also retrograde amnesia from a concussion, Shaps said.

Isom was twice taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus for treatment of his injuries after his arrest, Shaps said. He was treated for lacerations to the eye and face, the effects of tear gas, a possible hematoma, and shaking and sweating initially believed to be caused by a heart attack or stroke.

The fact that Isom, a longtime security guard who was laid off at the time of the shootings, had guns in the house was no secret, Shaps said.

One handgun was used for his job and a second handgun and shotgun were for home protection, he said.

Shaps said Isom had a high tolerance of alcohol and also used marijuana. Shaps described both Isom and his wife as primarily social drinkers.

Isom also took medication for a back disorder he had suffered since he was a teenager, he said.

Because Isom was laid off, there also were financial difficulties, he said.

The trial, more than five years in the making, almost stalled again Monday when the defense learned a pathologist with the Lake County coroner's office had altered his autopsy report on two of the victims Friday and consulted with an outside party.

Neither the pathologist nor the outside party had been deposed, and the defense sought to continue the trial.

Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak opted to move forward rather than call another mistrial, as he had in March after a failed attempt at jury selection.

Stefaniak ordered the pathologist to be contacted before opening statements.

Shaps later told jurors the pathologist's testimony would be "problematic."

All 12 jurors and five alternates will be sequestered throughout the trial, which is estimated to last three to five weeks.

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