CROWN POINT — A 54-year-old man told a judge Tuesday he went to visit his lifelong friend's home in 2017 and thought he was being welcomed inside, but instead was struck in the right temple with a large machete.
As Michael Biddings retreated from the front door of his friend Tyrone D. Hammons' home in the 500 block of Kentucky Street in Gary, Hammons swung the machete again.
This time, it struck Biddings in the shin, cutting his leg and shattering his bone in three places.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas sentenced Hammons to 14 years in prison for the Oct. 7, 2017, attack on Biddings and a separate attack on another lifelong friend Sept. 30, 2017. Hammons will serve the last year of his sentence in the Lake County Community Corrections Kimbrough Work Release Program.
Hammons' attorney, Lemuel Stigler, said Hammons was delusional at the time of the attacks and likely suffering from a diagnosed mental illness. Hammons thought his two friends, whom he had known since 1979, had something to do with the death of Hammons' mother, he said.
Since that time, Hammons has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Hammons pleaded guilty but mentally ill Jan. 22 to two counts of aggravated battery. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped attempted murder and battery charges.
Biddings said Hammons threatened to kill him as he continued to swing the machete, but Biddings knew he couldn't get up and run. Instead, he rolled around to avoid machete blows to his face and neck.
At one point, Biddings put up his hand to protect himself, and his right thumb was severed.
Gary police arrived and stopped the attack, he said.
"My injuries were so hideous that one of the officers had to turn and cover his eyes," Biddings said.
Doctors stapled Biddings' head and stitched his hands, and he was transferred to an Indianapolis hospital for specialized treatment for his thumb. His medical bills totaled about $230,000, he said.
Biddings said he had seen the evil in Hammons and asked Cappas to sentence his former friend to the maximum sentence under the law.
Deputy Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Johnsen asked Cappas to consider the viciousness of the attacks and that Hammons was accused of "chopping up" two of his closest friends.
Stigler asked Cappas to sentence Hammons to three years on each count.
Hammons quietly offered an apology to his friends.
Cappas said he agreed with Biddings that the attack was heinous.
"To get attacked by someone with a machete, it's easier to get shot, and it's done and over with, than it is to get hacked at, I would think," Cappas said.
He sentenced Hammons to nine years on one count and five years on the second count, to be served one after the other.