CROWN POINT — A judge dismissed charges Thursday against two brothers and their cousin in the shooting death of a 19-year-old man killed in 2018 in what police described as "a gun deal gone bad."
Brothers Derek T. McLaurin-McNutt, 22, and Derrel C. McLaurin-McNutt, 20, both of Hammond, and their cousin Charles D. Wilson III, 20, of Gary, were charged in May with murder and armed robbery in the April 7, 2018, homicide of Elijah Nolan, 19, of Gary, in Hammond's Robertsdale neighborhood.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Judith Massa on Thursday filed a motion seeking to drop the charges because the state "referred the matter back to the Hammond Police Department for additional investigation to prove its strict and heavy burden."
"The decision has been made in consultation and approval of the detectives on this case," Massa wrote.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell granted the state's motion and canceled a bail review hearing for all three defendants set for Thursday afternoon. The three were ordered release from jail.
Scott King, attorney for the McLaurin-McNutt brothers, said he believes Nolan — not his clients — was the one planning a robbery.
"For whatever reason, the state elected to file the reverse," he said.
According to court records, witnesses initially told police there weren't sure who shot first, but gunfire broke out during a meeting between the defendants and Nolan.
Police accused the McLaurin-McNutts and Wilson of luring Nolan to Hammond to rob him of a compact semi-automatic MAC 10 handgun they believed he had stolen from their friend.
Guns were drawn after Derrel McLaurin-McNutt gave money to Wilson, who gave it to Nolan, records allege.
Nolan died from a gunshot wound to the chest, police said.
Derrel McLaurin-McNutt was shot in the upper legs and suffered a broken femur, according to court records.
King said one key piece of evidence he never received as part of discovery included a firearms examiner's analysis of ballistics evidence in the case. Hammond police typically collect ballistics evidence but submit it to an Indiana State Police lab for analysis.
King said he expected the analysis to corroborate his clients' claims that Nolan targeted them.
"There was other evidence that the guy that died shot first," King said.
The cases were dismissed without prejudice, which means the state could re-file them at a later date.