CROWN POINT | A Lake Superior Court jury deliberated some three hours Thursday before finding an East Chicago man not guilty of murdering 21-year-old Lisa Puente.
Jurors also acquitted Antonio Perkins, 23, of attempted murder of Puente's boyfriend, who had identified Perkins as the shooter.
Puente was shot in July 2011 while riding in a car with her boyfriend after a brief altercation between the man and Perkins at an East Chicago gas station.
Prosecutors had argued Puente's boyfriend was the intended victim.
The couple had stopped at the gas station after leaving a Hammond bar, where they had been celebrating Puente's 21st birthday.
Puente's boyfriend told police he and Perkins had exchanged words inside the gas station before Perkins followed the couple's car at high speed, firing multiple times into the passenger side of the vehicle and striking Puente in the right side of the head.
Lake County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Jatkiewicz told jurors Puente paid with her life for the encounter between the men because Perkins lives by a different set of rules in his neighborhood.
Jatkiewicz said Perkins "got disrespected" back at the gas station, and in his neighborhood, that means they come after you.
Puente would be alive today but for Perkins' pettiness, Jatkiewicz told jurors.
Physical evidence in the car, cell phone technology and Perkins' repeated lies proved him the killer, she said.
But defense attorney Teresa Hollandsworth argued evidence showed the shooting could not have happened as the state alleged.
Hollandsworth said Puente's boyfriend testified to driving at some 50 mph in the dark and in the rain while being shot at by someone in a car with tinted windows. Neither the car nor the gun has ever been found, she said.
Hollandsworth contended evidence in the car indicated Puente's boyfriend or a third party shot Puente, not Perkins.
Cellphone records indicated the woman was already at the hospital when Perkins is alleged to have been shooting at the couple, she argued.