CROWN POINT — A Lake Criminal Court jury convicted a Gary man Thursday of two counts of murder in what prosecutors described as an execution-style killing of two teenagers over a missing handgun.
Alvino S. "Vino" Amaya, 37, also was found guilty of a firearm enhancement in connection with the Oct. 16, 2020, shooting deaths of 18-year-old Elijah Robinson and his friend Maxwell Kroll, 17, in the boys' home in the 3900 block of West 51st Avenue in Calumet Township, officials said.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Jacquelyn Altpeter told jurors in closing arguments that Robinson and Kroll were two kind, caring teenagers who also were very naive.
"They were caught in a world that they should never have been a part of," she said. "They were surrounded by firearms, drugs and dangerous people."
Amaya and his girlfriend and co-defendant, Dawn "Mama D" Carden, 43, knew the teenagers because they worked with Carden's son at a fast-food restaurant, according to trial testimony.
People are also reading…
Co-defendant Elijah D. Robinson, 20, also worked at the restaurant and thought it was "cool" that he and the victim Robinson shared a name. The two Robinsons were not related, police said.
When Amaya arrived at the teens' house demanding a handgun, he didn't know the victim Robinson's girlfriend was listening on a still-open phone line, Altpeter said.
The 18-year-old girlfriend testified Tuesday she was 100% certain it was Amaya she overheard say, "Where the (expletive) is the Glock 19? Where is the gun?" after her boyfriend fell asleep and her screen went dark.
Defense attorney Steven Mullins asked the jury why the woman didn't call police after she heard yelling over her phone and initially gave police Amaya's name to police if she knew who he was.
The woman testified she never thought Amaya would kill her boyfriend, and she didn't want to get Kroll and Robinson in trouble.
After finding the teens dead, she was scared for her safety, she said. In a second interview with police days later, she identified Amaya as the man she overhead on the phone.
Altpeter replayed a portion of the 911 call the woman's mother made after the woman and Robinson's sister went into the house to check on Robinson and Kroll and came out screaming hysterically because they found the teens dead.
"It was (expletive) (Carden's son's) stepdad," Robinson's girlfriend could be heard screaming in the background of the 911 call.
Alterpeter told the jury, "The girls knew from Day 1 who it was."
The deputy prosecutor commended Lake County sheriff's Detective Cory House for quick thinking that led to the recovery of the murder weapon.
House was monitoring text messages and obtained a search warrant for a storage unit Carden and her father rented hours after Kroll and Robinson were killed, she said.
"Dawn was getting rid of the murder weapon for her lover," Altpeter said.
Sheriff's Capt. Henry Hatch, a firearms examiner, testified he determined a Taurus 9mm semiautomatic handgun recovered from the storage facility fired the spent cartridge casings found at the crime scene.
DNA analysis excluded defendant Elijah D. Robinson as someone who had touched the Taurus, but Kroll, Carden and Amaya were found to be contributors, Altpeter said. Amaya's DNA was found on the trigger, she said.
Robinson didn't see any crime scene photos before testifying Wednesday afternoon, but he described the position of the victims' bodies in detail, Altpeter said.
Mullins questioned how the girl could have heard a voice but not a gunshot, which — according to Elijah D. Robinson's testimony — happened minutes after Amaya yelled at the victim Robinson about the Glock 19.
Kroll and Robinson's bedrooms were next to each other in a basement, and Hatch testified he had to wear ear protection when he test fired the Taurus handgun, Mullins said.
"Black Eli, let's get to him, from the very, very beginning lied to the police," Mullins said.
Elijah D. Robinson was facing a possible sentence of 150 years in prison before signing a plea agreement that called for him to testify against Amaya. If Judge Salvador Vasquez accepts Robinson's plea to one felony count of residential entry, he would face a sentence of six months to 2 1/2 years.
Altpeter urged the jury to consider Amaya's own words to a police officer while en route to the Lake County Jail after his arrest: "You don't have to rush to county. I'm going to be there for a long time."
Amaya could face 45 to 65 years on each of the two murder counts when he's sentenced next month. He also could face a mandatory consecutive sentence of five to 20 years on the firearm enhancement.