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VALPARAISO — After pointing out Simmie Fluker's long history of driving with a suspended license, Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper sentenced the Gary man Tuesday to four years behind bars for a 2018 fatal hit-and-run crash.

The sentence was the maximum allowed for under the terms of the plea agreement 42-year-old Fluker struck with prosecutors. He is required to serve at least 75% of the time and will have his driver's license suspended for two years.

"Mr. Fluker, you should have never been behind the wheel of the car," Harper said. "If you had just followed the law their boy would have been alive today and you wouldn't be sitting in that chair."

The sentencing followed emotional testimony from various family members about the Feb. 12, 2018 death of 18-year-old Joseph Bonner, of Portage, as the young man was walking north on Hamstrom Road from the Speedway gas station on Central Avenue to his residence, police said.

"My son was a big teddy bear with a big heart," said Bonner's mother, Kathy Mullens.

She said in a written statement that Fluker had stolen lots of firsts that had yet to come in her son's life.

Mullens, like other family members, said she was struggling with his decision to flee and let her son die on the roadway.

Fluker, who stood and apologized to the family, said he did not know he struck a person.

"This was not intentional," he said. "My heart is not built like that."

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Bonner was found about 1:30 a.m. on the day of the crash lying on Hamstrom Road and was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt force injuries, police said.

Fluker's 2007 Yukon Denali was located three days later by police at a body shop in Gary, according to court records. Police took custody of the vehicle and the following day, Fluker showed up at the Portage Police Department with his attorney and provided a statement.

He later pleaded guilty to felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and driving while suspended resulting in death.

Fluker's days in court did not end with Tuesday's sentencing. While awaiting the sentencing, he was arrested June 21 in Gary on felony counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and carrying a handgun without a licence, according to court records.

He was arrested after police responded to an early morning report of a man with a gun at an apartment complex in the 100 East block of Fifth Avenue, according to charging documents.

Police said they found a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson under a sofa cushion in an apartment where they found Fluker.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.