Times file photo firearms weapons guns stock art

In this Times file photo are weapons collected and analyzed in March 2019 by the Crime Laboratory Division of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. The lab tests seized weapons and checks them against a database of evidence from around the country.

HAMMOND — A homeless man unknowingly set off a chain reaction of events when he bought a gun for someone else in exchange for a hotel stay last year, ultimately leading to a young man's murder just days later, federal court records show.

Dakota McCeader, of East Chicago, purchased the gun March 31, 2018, and one week later, 19-year-old Elijah Nolan was gunned down reportedly while trying to sell that same firearm to three family members in Hammond's Robertsdale neighborhood.

Three family members allegedly involved in the gun buy have been charged in Lake Criminal Court in connection with Nolan's murder: brothers Derek T. McLaurin-McNutt, 21, and Derrel C. McLaurin-McNutt, 19, both of Hammond, and their cousin Charles D. Wilson III, 20, of Gary.

They are accused of arranging a meeting with Nolan under the pretense of buying a MAC 10 gun from him on April 7, 2018, but instead were luring him to rob him of the gun they believed he stole from a friend. 

McCeader was charged in U.S. District Court for the illegal purchase of several weapons, including the one Nolan had on him that day.

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Prosecutors say they have only recovered seven of the 27 guns McCeader allegedly purchased for other people between June 15, 2017, and July 20, 2018. The guns were recovered during traffic stops, a prostitution and drug investigation in Illinois, a shots fired investigation and a trespassing investigation in Gary, records show. 

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In seeking a lenient, 24-month sentence with two years supervised release, McCeader wrote in a sentencing memorandum this week he was unemployed and living on the streets when he agreed to purchase the weapon in exchange for cash. He used that cash to stay in a hotel, documents show. 

Prosecutors said the pistol Nolan was attempting to sell was never recovered, but they were able to obtain the serial number from photos recovered from Nolan's cell phone tying the gun to McCeader. 

McCeader is set to be sentenced later this month after pleading guilty to purchasing a pistol for someone else at Deb's Gun Range in Hammond on June 14, 2018. He also has admitted to illegally purchasing several guns at firearm shops across Northwest Indiana, court records show. 

McCeader faced eight counts tied to illegal gun buys, and the federal government has agreed, as part of his guilty plea, to toss out seven counts at sentencing. His sentencing is set for 11 a.m. June 26 before Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen.

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.