CROWN POINT | Rather than face a jury on murder charges for killing a mentally-challenged woman with an ax, a Michigan City man pleaded guilty Monday to a Class A felony.
Johnnathan Adam Fuller, 39, faces 20 to 50 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the slaying of Sylvia Marie Jones on Oct. 13, 2009.
Lake Criminal Judge Clarence Murray accepted the guilty plea and will sentence Fuller on April 28.
According to court records, Fuller and his family lived in the same Michigan City mobile home park as Jones, and Fuller gained power of attorney over the woman’s finances.
Jones was admitted to LaPorte Hospital following a suicide attempt in the fall 2009 and expressed a wish to move to another facility rather than go back to her home, the affidavit states.
Fuller lured Jones to a Gary beach, where he told her they were going to dig up some money he had buried, court records say. In his plea agreement, he said he used an ax to bludgeon the woman seven times before cutting off her hands and burying her in the hole she had dug.
In August 2010, authorities were called after hiker discovered a shallow hole filled with bones while walking in the sand dunes on Melton Road in Gary.
The following January, Chesterton police began investigating the disappearance of a woman named Sylvia Marie Jones. Porter County investigators received a report of Jones being killed in October 2009, court records state.
When Porter County authorities arrested Fuller on Nov. 3, 2009, on an unrelated matter, they discovered a debit card belonging to Jones in Fuller's possession.
Court records state family members of Jones contacted during the investigation reported not having heard from the woman for about two years. Jones was said to have called her son, who was living in Kentucky, daily until the calls suddenly stopped before Thanksgiving 2009.
A witness told Porter County investigators in November 2009 that Fuller admitted to the killing.
Fuller thought it funny he had tricked Jones into "digging her own grave," the witness told police.
Another witness told police Fuller had threatened to "do you like I did her" when a family member threatened to call police.
Forensic pathologist Stephen Nawrocki, of the University of Indianapolis, and other forensic experts determined the bones buried in the dunes are consistent with DNA profiles of Jones' family members.
Fuller was last sentenced July 13, 2012, on an unrelated felony charge of neglect of a dependent, according to the Indiana Department of Correction. Fuller's criminal history includes prior convictions of sexual battery, fraud and attempted battery.
In exchange for a guilty plea of voluntary manslaughter, Lake County prosecutors dropped the charges of abuse of a corpse and altering the scene of death.