Teen pleads guilty in connection with death of retired Michigan City teacher

2013-11-15T12:15:00Z 2013-11-15T23:05:07Z Teen pleads guilty in connection with death of retired Michigan City teacherStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 15, 2013 12:15 pm  • 

A teenager submitted a guilty plea to a lesser charge in the 2012 brutal slaying of a retired Michigan City teacher as part of a deal offered by prosecutors in an effort to shore up cases against others allegedly involved.

Martell Anderson, 17, pleaded guilty Thursday to Class A felony robbery.

The charge was downgraded from murder in exchange for Anderson agreeing to testify against three others charged in the killing, said LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi.

Anderson now faces 20 to 50 years instead of the 45 to 65 years he could have faced with a murder conviction.

"Sometimes, to convict other people we have to do some things we don't want to do but have to do," said Szilagyi.

During a hearing Thursday in LaPorte Superior Court, Anderson testified each defendant took a turn beating Peters with a baseball bat, Szilagyi said.

Peters was robbed of credit cards and his vehicle at his home in the 300 block of Walker Street.

Phelps allegedly turned on a gas stove to blow up the house but the attempt failed, according to courtroom testimony.

Three hours after his body was found by police during a welfare check, the vehicle owned by Peters was spotted being driven by 18-year-old Trevon Walker, who crashed the vehicle while being chased by police.

Ryan Phelps, 21, the alleged mastermind of the attack, was homeless until taken in by Peters, who had kicked him out of the home prior to the killing, authorities said.

Szilagyi said Anderson will have to testify only if the murder charges of Phelps and Walker wind up going to trial.

Melvin Basford, 18, is still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to Class A felony robbery in late August.

Peters was a retired high school English teacher and former officer with the Michigan City Federation of Teachers.

Anderson's attorney, Scott Pejic, said the prison time his defendant receives will be decided once sentencing arguments are given at a hearing set for March 6.

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