Hammond bar owner gets probation for tampering with evidence in murder

2013-04-09T17:30:00Z 2013-04-09T22:41:06Z Hammond bar owner gets probation for tampering with evidence in murderSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | The owner of a Hammond bar charged with obstruction of justice for disposing of a knife and other evidence after a murder pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge.

In a plea agreement, a felony obstruction charge against Steve Hekkel, 51, was reduced to a misdemeanor for which he will serve a year's probation.

Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss a domestic battery charge. As a condition of probation, Hekkel was ordered to complete a domestic violence program.

Witnesses told police Hekkel, owner of the former Copper Penny Bar on Kennedy Avenue, instructed employees to mop blood from the floor and "get rid of everything" before police arrived after the fatal stabbing of Victor Adams, of West Lafayette, in January 2011, according to court records.

Ernesto R. Ramirez, 30, of Merrillville, was later convicted of murder in Adams' stabbing.

Hekkel was alleged to have wrapped the knife used in the stabbing in a napkin or rag and taken it in the direction of the beer garden, where it later was recovered from a dumpster.

Hekkel also was accused of tampering with the bar's video equipment before police arrived.

The plea agreement states Hekkel does not dispute picking up the knife and walking toward the beer garden or mopping up the bar. He admitted to continuing to conceal the knife and a rug from the scene, according to the document.

Following a hearing Tuesday, Hekkel denied thwarting the investigation.

Hekkel said he was not aware of a murder at the time he found a pocket knife on the floor and threw it away.

"If I was going to hide a knife, I certainly wouldn't throw it in a dumpster where they could find it," he said. "I threw it in the garbage."

Hekkel insisted he was cooperating with police when he provided them with various camera angles from his surveillance system.

"So how could I have been obstructing justice?" he said.

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