VALPARAISO | A man, described by prosecutors as the ringleader of a 2012 violent home burglary, was sentenced Monday to 35 years behind bars.
Dominick Fazzini, 25, of Peotone, Ill., looked back from the front of the courtroom at the victim and apologized.
"If I could take it back, I would in a second," he told her.
After the burglary at the Porter Township home, Fazzini and three other suspects were pursued and crashed their car in Hobart. They ran from the crash site, with one of the suspects shooting at an FBI agent before turning the gun on himself.
Fazzini pleaded guilty to Class A felony burglary resulting in bodily injury. He said he is no longer the person who carried out the offense and asked for a second chance.
The victim said a well-dressed man came to her door Aug. 8, 2012 asking for directions. When she offered him some water, he knocked her down, punched her and held her to the ground while three other men, two armed with handguns, entered her home and demanded keys to a safe in the basement, according to police reports. They reportedly threatened to shoot her if she didn't comply.
The woman, who was 52 at the time of the crime, told the court Monday she is no longer a trusting person and is convinced she would have died that day had a neighbor not intervened.
She asked for the maximum sentence for Fazzini, voicing concern about retaliation when he and the others are released.
Defense attorney Lori Ferngren attempted to down play Fazzini's role as organizer of the crime and said his actions were the result of his lifestyle and drugs.
She said he was not the one who battered the woman and asked for a 20-year sentence with 10 years suspended and spent on probation.
Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford cited Fazzini's role in organizing the intricate plan as part of the sentencing.
Bradford also spoke of the ongoing trauma suffered by the victim and the danger posed to the community as police chased the men into Hobart where the neighbor, who followed the men, was shot in the hand.
That neighbor, a Hammond firefighter, checked on the woman and then began following her attackers into Lake County, giving 911 dispatchers information along the way, according to reports.
When the suspects got to the intersection of U.S. 30 and Colorado Street in Hobart, they crashed and fled their car.
Fazzini was found hiding in a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant. Another man was found hiding near the car, and one was apprehended inside the nearby TGI Friday's restaurant, police said.
The fourth suspect was found near the Centier bank branch by an FBI agent who happened to be at the intersection at the time of the crash. The agent said that suspect near the bank fired three or four shots at him and took off running across U.S. 30.
The agent said during the chase, that fourth suspect stopped, pointed his handgun at his own head, fired one shot and fell to the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene.