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Man avoids prison time for fatal stabbing at Hammond 'flop house'

Man avoids prison time for fatal stabbing at Hammond 'flop house'

CROWN POINT — A Lake Criminal Court judge sentenced a 59-year-old man Tuesday to nearly two years for fatally stabbing another man last Thanksgiving during a fight over food at a Hammond "flop house."

Ronnie Hannah was homeless and staying on and off at a home at 19 Rimbach St. on Nov. 26, when he killed Montral Miller, 44.

Judge Samuel Cappas said Hannah was defending himself, but he wasn't justified in using a knife against Miller.

Cappas sentenced Hannah to 34 months, with initial placement in the Lake County Community Corrections alternative placement program. Hannah also was ordered to participate in Lake County's Community Transition Court, which can help connect him with addiction and mental health treatment.

"You're not the kind of person who needs to go to prison," Cappas said. "But you do need help."

Ride along with LaPorte Police Specialist Justin Dyer as he patrols the streets of LaPorte.

Hannah pleaded guilty in April to reckless homicide, a level 5 felony. His plea called for a sentence of one to six years.

Miller arrived at the apartment drunk and got into an argument with Hannah over a Thanksgiving meal Hannah had picked up from a local church. Hannah also told Miller the landlord at the house didn't want Miller staying there.

Miller grabbed Hannah by the throat, but released him when a witness asked him to let go, court records state.

Hannah subsequently grabbed a knife and stabbed Miller in the shoulder and leg, causing Miller's death.

Miller's brother, Romell Watson, told the judge May 25 that Miller didn't always make the best decisions but he didn't deserve to be killed.

"He just had a grandbaby that he didn't get to see," Watson said.

Miller was one of nine siblings, and his homicide has been hard for the family, Watson said.

"Justice for my family would be if you could give Mr. Hannah a life sentence," he said.

Defense attorney Lemuel Stigler said Hannah never intended to kill Miller, who began choking Hannah and pushed Hannah up against a wall after Hannah talked to Miller about the landlord.

Witnesses told police Miller was heard saying he would kill everyone in the house.

"Mr. Miller decided to take it out on the smallest person there, Mr. Hannah," Stigler said. 

Miller was 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, while Hannah is 5-foot-5 and about 120 pounds, he said.

Stigler said several witnesses in the house did not come to Hannah's aid during the fight or help Miller after he was stabbed. Instead, someone stole Miller's phone, he said.

Stigler suggested six possible sentences, all of which involved a one-year sentence.

Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Veronica Gonzalez said everyone in the house left after Miller was stabbed, including Hannah.

Hannah had a phone and could have called police for help for Miller, she said.

"Mr. Hannah could have left at any time," Gonzalez said. "Instead, he escalated the situation and chose to stay."

Gonzalez said the defense was correct to point out Hannah had just one felony conviction for burglary in 1979. She recommended a sentence of four years to be served in the Lake County Community Corrections program.

Hannah will receive credit for more than five months already served, plus good time. He said he didn't want to appeal his sentence.


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