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Kevin Campbell, Tiara Thomas

Kevin Campbell, Tiara Thomas

The Indiana Appellate Court has upheld the murder conviction of former Gary and Hammond police officer Kevin Campbell, who was sentenced to 55 years behind bars for shooting the mother of three of his children.

The court dismissed the argument that jurors in the trial had been improperly encouraged by the court to discuss the evidence as the January trial was underway rather than waiting until it was time to deliberate.

Campbell argued he was deprived a fair trail.

Campbell plans to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to consider his challenge, said his public defender Bryan Truitt.

"We knew we were going to get this decision," Truitt said.

But the argument had to be presented to the appellate court before it could be pitched for consideration by the Supreme Court, he said. The Supreme Court has already ruled against this argument in an earlier case, he said, but the hope is they are willing to reconsider.

"Our point is there is no distinction between discussion and deliberation," Truitt said.

Even if the Supreme Court does not take up the appeal, Campbell intends to challenge his conviction along other lines in the process known as post conviction relief, Truitt said.

Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said, "As a result of the hard work of the Portage Police Department and the skilled prosecution efforts of Chief Deputy Matt Frost and deputy prosecutor Cheryl Polarek, Kevin Campbell was brought to justice. The Appellate Court’s decision reflected the work put into the case and the overwhelming evidence of guilt."

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Campbell, 34, has maintained his innocence.

"I am not responsible for Tiara's (Thomas) death, but someone is," Campbell said during his sentencing hearing in April. "I promise I will not rest until I find out who."

A jury found Campbell guilty of murdering Thomas, 30, by sneaking into her Portage apartment during the early morning hours of Nov. 18, 2015, and repeatedly shooting her. Prosecutors argued he carried out the murder, in part, to get out of paying $355 a week in child support, creating a "financial quagmire" that already had resulted in his vehicle being repossessed, his mortgage payments falling behind and numerous bill collectors hounding him on his cellphone.

Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford had said Campbell's lack of a criminal record was neutralized during sentencing by carrying out the crime while serving as a police officer and leaving his children without parents. Bradford said Campbell carefully planned the murder using his children to obtain a key to the apartment, learn when Thomas' fiance would be away at work and got the children out of the apartment for the murder with an unusual mid-week visitation.

Porter County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost criticized Campbell at sentencing for taking the opportunity to once again hurt the grieving family and cast doubt on who carried out the murder.

"How dare him," Frost said. "They know him just fine. He's the man who killed their daughter."

As far as Campbell's claims of wanting to seek out the real killer, Frost said, "All he has to do is look in the mirror."

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.