INDIANAPOLIS — A Gary man who pleaded guilty in February to voluntary manslaughter, just as he was about to be tried for murder, is entitled to no reduction in his 15-year prison sentence, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

According to court records, Melvin Bruce, 46, shot to death his girlfriend, Temica Spencer, in front of a 12-year-old and their 1-year-old child after Spencer, 31, confronted Bruce with a knife on Aug. 29, 2017, at their home in the 500 block of Mount Street.

Bruce initially was charged with murder and faced a prison term of 45 to 60 years if convicted, along with a sentence enhancement of 5 to 20 years for using a firearm to commit the crime.

Instead, after a Lake County jury was empaneled, though before his trial began, Bruce inked a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to the level 2 felony, punishable by 10 to 30 years in prison but capped for him at a maximum of 18 years.

Lake Superior Judge Salvador Vasquez ultimately sentenced Bruce to 15 years at the Indiana Department of Correction.

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In his appeal, Bruce argued that Vasquez failed to fully consider Bruce's remorse, the needs of his dependents and the limited possibility that Bruce would repeat the crime as mitigating factors in Vasquez's sentencing decision.

The appeals court ruled that because Bruce’s prison term was less than the 17.5-year advisory sentence for a level 2 felony, Vasquez was under no obligation to consider mitigating or aggravating factors at all.

The three appellate judges unanimously concluded that Bruce's supposed mitigating factors were owed no deference, and his 15-year sentence was justified given the nature of the offense and his character.

"Bruce not only killed the mother of his child but did so in the presence of that young child and a second child," the court said. "We cannot say Bruce's sentence was inappropriate."

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