GARY | A Lake Station man facing murder and attempted murder charges managed to slip out of an Illinois hospital earlier this year and has since been on the lam.
Mark Cherry, 21, was charged in December with murder, two counts of attempted murder, attempted robbery, criminal confinement and two counts of battery by means of a deadly weapon. A warrant was issued Dec. 20.
Cherry was wounded during a fatal home invasion he is accused of taking part in and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn for treatment. About two months after the incident, he managed to leave the hospital and avoid apprehension.
Cherry's probable cause affidavit describes a chaotic scene that started Dec. 1, 2013, when three men armed with guns knocked on a door of a home in the 6200 block of West 29th Avenue in Gary.
The homeowner was confronted by the men demanding he hand over marijuana, according to the complaint. The homeowner told the men the drugs were in the refrigerator after he was forced on the ground and had a gun pointed to his head.
The homeowner's brother, who lives next door, heard gunshots and went to check on his brother. Rolando A. Correa, 22, of Gary, was with the brother and went to the scene.
The homeowner, his brother and other people who were in the home fought with the three men and tried to disarm the suspects, according to the affidavit. At some point during the struggle, Correa was shot and went next door where officers later found him.
Cherry was wounded during the struggle, the affidavit states.
Correa died Dec. 2 at Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus in Gary, according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Andre J. Woods, 28, of Gary, was found dead with a gunshot wound hours after the home invasion on the side of the road in the 2100 block of Georgia Street, police said. Gary police previously said they believe Woods was involved in the home invasion.
Gary police stopped a vehicle fleeing from the scene and found Cherry inside with a gunshot wound. Cherry was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was treated for his wounds.
Gary police Cpl. Gabrielle King said Cherry was discharged from the hospital in late February, and was supposed to have a police hold. King said officers were not notified until later that Cherry had left the hospital.
Mike Maggio, a spokesman for Advocate Christ Medical Center, said by email that hospital officials cannot tell anyone when a patient is going to be discharged, citing the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.
He said if a patient is under arrest or facing charges, the arresting agency typically places an officer outside the hospital room until the person is discharged.
King said an officer was not placed outside Cherry's hospital room because the department does not have jurisdiction in Illinois.
Officials at Advocate Christ Medical Center would not say when exactly Cherry was released from the hospital.
East Chicago police Lt. Marguerite Wilder said her department tries to work with hospital officials who will notify officers when a suspect is going to be released. She said depending on the severity of the injuries, it might not be possible for the department to have an officer stay with the suspect.
"We look at the risk of not being able to locate them again, and then we make a decision from there," she said.
Porter County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Larry LaFlower said his department assigns an officer to the hospital if the suspect is facing serious criminal charges. Otherwise, a suspect has to sign a form stating he or she allows the hospital to notify officers of their condition.
LaFlower said if the suspect is involved in a minor crime and there isn't enough manpower for an officer to stay at the hospital, the department will later obtain an arrest warrant.
Anyone with information about Cherry's whereabouts is asked to call the Gary Police Department at (219) 881-1214.