CROWN POINT | A Hammond man was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison for strangling Denise M. Collier in June 2011.
Lumaz Lattef Thompson, 25, of the 900 block of Morris Street, pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to Class A felony charges of voluntary manslaughter/killing another human being in sudden heat. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges from murder.
Thompson killed Collier, 54, inside her apartment in the 6100 block of Harrison Avenue in Hammond the night of June 1, 2011.
Police found Collier's body June 7, 2011, after friends and relatives reported they had not seen her for several days and that her orange Chevrolet Camaro was missing from its usual parking space.
She had been choked to death with her own skirt, which had been knotted behind her neck, according to court documents.
Neighbors said they saw Thompson with Collier the last night she was seen alive. He was identified through surveillance video from a Calumet Avenue business, according to court documents.
The video showed Thompson and two other men approach Collier as she left a store, get into a car with her and drive off, court documents state.
Thompson admitted to police under questioning that he had strangled her, according to court documents.
Collier’s two children — Twana Collier Grayson and Maurice Collier Jr. — spoke at the sentencing hearing.
“Our family is so brokenhearted and empty. I had a baby. I told my mother the night before she was murdered that I was pregnant,” Grayson said between sobs. “She had a passion for life. She was a go-getter. I want justice for my mom.”
Maurice Collier Jr. echoed his sister’s statements.
“My mother was our everything. Life will never be the same without my mother,” he said. “Due to the nature of the crime, we had to cremate her. I was not able to see her in her casket. She’s never coming home again.”
Prior to sentencing, Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray said photos of Collier at the crime scene were "horrendous.”
The rage displayed in the attack on Collier “was sudden, savage and heinous,” Murray said. “I’m shocked and appalled. ... In my tenure on the bench, I know it’s something you never get over. I’m never going to get over this, what I saw.”
Thompson's family members asked the judge to show him leniency.
Thompson’s biological father, Martin Foster, said he didn’t have contact with his son during Thompson’s childhood. Foster said his son was abused while in various foster care homes starting at the age of 4 and suffers from mental illness requiring medication.
“He’s now on medication (for his mental illness),” Foster said. “Please give my son the help he needs.”
Janet Thompson, 23, the defendant's sister, said she and her siblings were removed from their mother’s home after a younger brother died of cocaine poisoning. The siblings were separated from one another in foster care and not reunited with their mother for seven years.
“Lumaz tried to be strong for us. He internalized a lot of things. He was closer to our mother,” she said. “He was never treated for what we experienced (in foster care). ... He has made many bad choices.”
She asked Murray to not sentence her brother to the maximum of 50 years in prison.
Lumaz Thompson is the second member of his family to be sentenced to prison for killing someone.
Thompson's brother, Reo Jonta Thompson, is serving 120 years in prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of Milton McClendon, 78, and his wife, Ruby McClendon, 76, in October 2009.