CROWN POINT | The mother of slain teacher Jennifer Kocsis testified Tuesday it was an online report discovered by a friend that convinced her a body found in Gary was that of her 37-year-old daughter.
When told the description of a "Jane Doe" found behind a closed elementary school included a tattoo inscribed with an affectionate, "Dad," Linda Carey recalled saying, "That's Jennifer."
"We both started crying," said Carey, of Cedar Lake.
Later shown police photographs of her daughter, Carey said, "She looked like she had been in the fight of her life. She looked broken to me."
Carey remained stoic in describing the ordeal until asked to describe the eldest of her three children from a first marriage.
"She was a lovely girl," Carey said, especially noting her daughter's doting ways when it came to her younger disabled brother.
"She loved life, and she never thought anyone would hurt her," she said.
A Ball State graduate with degrees in elementary education and music, Kocsis loved children and music, and was a regular at a Pepe's restaurant during karaoke nights.
About 10 years ago, Kocsis bought a house in Griffith her mother had owned, living alone there until taking on a roommate a year before her death, Carey told jurors.
It was at the Pepe's at 222 E. Ridge Road in Griffith where Kocsis is believed to have agreed to give a ride to defendant Robert Lewis III the night she went missing in April 2011.
Testifying for the state Tuesday, a witness told jurors of earlier rebuffing a proposition by a drunken Lewis, who laid a $100 bill on the table as he insisted on being driven home.
Lewis, 40, faces multiple charges, including murder and criminal deviate conduct, in connection with Kocsis' death.
During opening statements, defense attorney T. Edward Page said no one disputes the woman was brutally murdered.
Nor did he dispute Lewis had done a lot of drinking by the time he and Kocsis left together about 1:30 a.m. Both were regulars at the restaurant and may have known each other, he said.
But Page questioned the state's presentation of events saying, "You will be encouraged to speculate when there is no evidence."
Page also questioned the motivation of the person who may be the state's key witness, who is expected to testify to picking up the blood-soaked Lewis a little more than an hour after Lewis left Pepe's with Kocsis.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Catherine Breitweiser-Hurst told jurors they would hear testimony of the immediate concern by friends who attempted to follow Kocsis' car and their failed attempts to reach her by cell phone or at her home.
Jurors would see video of Lewis leaving with Kocsis and hear of a half-dozen different versions of events offered by Lewis himself, she said.