CROWN POINT — A 17-year-old girl told a judge she missed her mother and wished she hadn't stabbed her to death before the judge sentenced her Wednesday to 45 years in prison for the "premeditated, heinous murder."
Chastinea T. Reeves, of Gary, who pleaded guilty in May, admitting she stabbed, cut and chopped her 34-year-old mother, Jamie Garnett, more than 60 times Feb. 13, 2017, at their home in the 4400 block of West 23rd Place in Gary.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Maureen Koonce said the evidence showed Reeves not only contemplated killing her mother the day of the murder, but had thought about it previously.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell on Wednesday pressed defense attorney John Cantrell and Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Maureen Koonce to explain why Reeves' plea agreement called for the minimum sentence for murder.
"Not only is this a premeditated, heinous murder, it's also your mother," Boswell said. "I don't get it. What are the mitigating factors that caused her to get the minimum?"
Cantrell said Reeves was just 15 when she committed the crime and could be in her 50s by the time she is released.
"She's a child," he said. "She accepted responsibility, and she's remorseful."
'Tell me why you did this'
Boswell said Reeves had not appeared very remorseful during previous court appearances. She asked Reeves to speak for herself.
Reeves stood silent for a time. Cantrell said she was nervous and asked if she could sit while she spoke.
Boswell allowed Reeves to sit and told her to speak up.
"Tell me why you did this," she said. "Why did you feel you had to do this to your mother?"
Reeves mumbled something, and Cantrell told Boswell that Reeves had said she didn't want to talk about it.
Boswell told Reeves this was her chance to explain why she should receive the minimum sentence. Boswell said another option is going to trial, after which she could face a maximum sentence of 65 years.
After a time, Reeves began to talk softly.
"If I could go back, I wouldn't do it again," she said. "I'm only a child, but I know that doesn't excuse it.
"I do miss my mother, and I wish I wouldn't have done it," she said, breaking down into tears.
Grandmother: 'I don't understand'
Boswell told Cantrell and Koonce to offer further arguments.
Koonce said Reeves had no criminal history before her mother's murder, and one of the witnesses in the case would have been Reeves' younger sister — who may have witnessed part of the attack when she was just 3 years old. The DNA evidence in the case was complex, she said.
"We took that all into account," she said.
Boswell asked where Reeves' family was, and grandmother Rosemary Cruz spoke up.
At first, Cruz said she didn't want to speak. She eventually made her way up to the witness stand.
"I don't know exactly what to say," she said.
She loved and misses her daughter, Garnett, she said.
"I don't understand, because she was such a good child," Cruz said of Reeves.
Reeves was on the honor roll and participated in dance.
"All I can ask is that she can receive some type of therapy," she said. "Something's wrong. Something snapped. I hope she can get some type of help mentally to get through what she has done."
Cruz said Garnett loved her girls, and she planned to continue to support Reeves.
"She deserves what she gets. I'm not saying what she did was OK, but I do feel she needs therapy," she said.
After a discussion at the bench with Cantrell and Koonce, Boswell accepted Reeves' plea agreement and sentenced her to 45 years in prison. Reeves received credit for 1,115 days in jail.
The judge ordered Reeves receive a psychological evaluation and any recommended treatment.
As Reeves was escorted out of the court by a female sheriff's officer, her uncle -- Garnett's brother -- shouted out, "We love you, baby."
Reeves' boyfriend, Virgil King, 19, of Gary, and Matthew Martin, 18, of Gary, were co-defendants in the case. They each were charged in July 2017 with assisting a criminal and auto theft in connection with Garnett's homicide.
Martin pleaded guilty in December to felony assisting a criminal and agreed to testify against her. His sentencing is set for Tuesday.
King has pleaded not guilty and is next scheduled to appear in court Monday.
'I'm going to be there for her'
After the hearing, Cruz said she was thankful Boswell granted her request that Reeves receive therapy.
The loss of her daughter at the hands of her granddaughter has been incredibly difficult, she said.
"I'm going to be there for her," she said. "I gave it all to God, and that's how I get by."
Cruz said she chose not to communicate with the prosecutor's office while her granddaughter's case was pending.
"People say they know what I want," she said. "Knowing that my granddaughter did this — it's just horrible."
Still, Cruz loves Reeves and knows it will be difficult for Reeves' younger sister, she said.
"Chas is hurting," she said. "I know she has remorse."
She doesn't bring up Garnett or talk about Reeves unless her younger granddaughter talks about them first, she said.
The girl — now 6 — brings them up all the time, she said. She wears a memorial T-shirt Cruz had made for Garnett to bed, and goes through Cruz's phone looking at family photos.
"She tells me about the good times she and Chas had," she said.