VALPARAISO — Former Gary and Hammond police officer Kevin Campbell showed no reaction when it was announced Tuesday afternoon that a jury found him guilty of murdering the mother of three of his children just more than two years ago.
The mother of the 30-year-old murder victim, Tiara Thomas, sobbed aloud in the courtroom after the verdict was read by Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.
The jury had deliberated for three hours.
"We're pleased that it came back guilty," said Herbert Smith Jr., who is an uncle to Thomas.
"All involved did an excellent job," he said.
Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said, "We hope this verdict can offer some measure of closure for Tiara's family. We are thankful for the efforts of the officers and prosecutors involved in this case and thank the jury for their time and dedication to the trial."
Campbell, who will remain in jail without bond, is scheduled to be sentenced at 1 p.m. April 6.
Following closing arguments earlier in the day, jurors were left to decide whether Thomas was killed as a result of a well-planned ambush by Campbell or during a struggle with an unknown attacker.
"This man is who happened to Tiara Thomas," Porter County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost said while pointing at 33-year-old Campbell during closing arguments in the 10-day murder trial.
"Her death was the only answer," he said.
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Prosecutors have argued Campbell repeatedly shot Thomas at her Portage apartment during the early morning hours of Nov. 18, 2015, 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.
The security system at Campbell's Hobart home showed his front door opened at 3:25 a.m. on the day of the shooting and was opened again at 5:55 a.m., Frost said. Thomas had sent a text to her fiance at 4:48 a.m. and was found shot when he returned home from work shortly before 7:30 a.m.
Campbell's cellphone connected with a tower near Thomas' apartment at 5:34 a.m. the same morning, Frost said.
Campbell also had the children stay at his home the night before the killing and had never done that on a school night before, Frost said.
Defense attorney Susan Severtson called the case against Campbell a rush to judgment by police and said there is no physical evidence linking her client to the shooting.
She held up photos of the shooting scene and told jurors there clearly had been a struggle, contrary to the surprise ambush portrayed by prosecutors. She said there were laundry detergent bottles near the apartment door and the door was unlocked, which gives the appearance Thomas was up early doing laundry when someone attacked her.
No one saw Campbell at Thomas' apartment on the morning in question, she said. The defense has argued that Campbell's home doors were opening and closing overnight because he and his wife were placing diapers outside from an ill child.
Severtson also challenged the cellphone evidence used against Campbell, saying there were 39 cellphone towers near Thomas' apartment and only one reportedly picked up his phone.
"It never happened," she said.
Severtson dismissed the alleged financial motive for the shooting by saying Campbell's response to the increased child support payments was to work second and third jobs, not to murder Thomas.