CROWN POINT | A Merrillville man was sentenced to 80 years in prison Tuesday, exactly two years after killing a Lucky Mart Foods clerk during a robbery.
"This was a viscous and heinous killing," Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray said during Tuesday's sentencing hearing for Jeremy Blue, 22.
In November, a jury convicted Blue of murder and robbery in the March 4, 2012, shooting death of Judi Simpson-Beaver, 48.
The shooting occurred during an armed robbery at the convenience store, 5695 Cleveland St. in Merrillville.
Simpson-Beaver's family asked Murray to give Blue the maximum sentence of 85 years for the crimes. Jami Martin, Simpson-Beaver's sister, also said they would accept whatever punishment Blue received.
Zachary Beaver, one of Simpson-Beaver's two sons, said his mother believed all people are fundamentally good, and she would do anything she could to help people in need.
Prosecutors said Simpson-Beaver's last words were, "Jeremy, why are you doing this?" Zachary Beaver said his mother asked that question to Blue because of her good nature and she wanted to help.
"Jeremy didn't rob the Lucky Mart, he robbed all of us," Zachary Beaver said.
Near the end of the hearing, Murray said he wanted to add to that comment by indicating Blue also robbed the community that day.
He said everyone loses when good people like Simpson-Beaver are taken away from the community.
Murray commended Simpson-Beaver's family members for their strength during the two-week trial in November and the numerous times they had to watch video surveillance of the killing.
"It was profoundly disturbing," he said of the video.
Murray said the video wasn't used as an aggravating factor in sentencing, but it gave an opportunity to assess the viscous nature of the crimes.
He referred to Blue as a person of low moral character and a danger to society.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Persin said Blue has exhibited no remorse for the killing, and he continues to show disdain for authority.
Persin explained Blue's criminal history started as a juvenile. He said Blue has fought inmates and has been disrespectful to staff while he has been incarcerated.
Persin believes Blue is "beyond rehabilitation."
Murray decided Blue will not receive credit for time already served in jail because of incidents Blue has been involved with in jail. Those incidents include throwing urine and feces at other inmates, Murray said.
Defense attorney Marc Laterzo said Blue has a long and documented history of mental disorders.
Decisions made the day of the shooting came while Blue was no longer receiving counseling.
Laterzo said the shooting wasn't premeditated. It occurred on impulse, he said.
Blue's mother, Nanneetta Blue, also talked on her son's behalf during the hearing.
She said her son is paranoid and afraid of jail.
"He's afraid for his life," she said, "of being killed in prison."
Although Jeremy Blue has a documented list of previous mental health issues, there was no professional at Tuesday's hearing to give a clear diagnosis of his current mental state, Murray said.
Blue apologized to Simpson-Beaver's family during the hearing, but he continues to deny involvement in the killing.
"The truth is I didn't do any of this stuff you say I have," Blue said.
He also indicated he almost wished he had committed the crimes so it wouldn't look like prosecutors are lying.
Murray stopped Blue multiple times while he was talking, twice because Blue was talking about his criminal history that wasn't relevant to the case and once because his comments were becoming offensive.
Blue told Murray he intends to appeal the conviction.
"I have never killed or robbed anyone in my life," Blue said.