Father buries son - killed over an Xbox - on Father's Day: 'They took well over half my soul'

Johnny Peluyera, 16, of Merrillville, was killed June 12 in an attempted robbery shooting. 

MERRILLVILLE — A feeling of relief washed over Kelly Arroyo when detectives called Wednesday afternoon to let her know two suspects in her 16-year-old son's murder had been taken into custody.

Police arrested a 17-year-old and 18-year-old after executing two search warrants at homes in Gary and Crown Point, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said. The two teens, who remain in Lake County Jail, are accused of gunning down Arroyo's son, Johnny Peluyera, during a botched Xbox sale June 12 in Gary.

“Charges against both teens have not yet been filed,” Martinez said. “Charges are expected to be filed this week and the names of both suspects will be released."

Martinez said authorities are asking that the 17-year-old be charged as an adult — something Arroyo hopes to happen, as well.

Johnny Peluyera family

Kelly Arroyo, left, stands beside John Peluyera, who holds a photo of his son Johnny Peluyera outside the family's home Thursday to thank the community for their support following the death of Johnny. Johnny was shot and killed June 12.

Peluyera and his father, John Peluyera, both of Merrillville, drove to the 5000 block of Maryland Street in Gary to sell the teen's Xbox to two prospective buyers who connected with the teen online. While examining the game console, a suspect brandished a handgun, police said.

Peluyera's father told the 16-year-old to run back to their vehicle, but the boy was hit before making it to the car's passenger seat, with the Xbox still in his hands.

After being shot, he got off the ground and sat in the car as his father drove them a short distance to the intersection of 51st Avenue and Maryland Street. There, the father called 911.

But when first responders arrived, Peluyera showed no signs of life, police said.

The suspects were previously described as two black men in their late teens or early 20s wearing hoodies and basketball shorts, police said. Peluyera's father, the only person who could identify the men involved, had asked the people responsible for his son's murder to turn themselves in.

"My son had a big bright future ahead of him that you shattered," John Peluyera said. "You took not only a soul, but you took half of my soul that nothing will ever fulfill again.”

Soon, the family would no longer need to worry about the suspects remaining on the lam.

"They got them three weeks to the day that they killed my son," Arroyo said. "I feel bad that they chose to lose their lives like this so young. They aren't going to lose it the way my son did, but it's over for them, and it's so sad. ... I'm just glad they are off the streets and can't do this to anyone else's family."

She said the arrest helps provide a sense of closure for her family, especially her husband, who had been on edge since their son's murder, getting little to no sleep.

Arroyo admitted she had been surprised the teens allegedly involved were caught "so soon," believing she would have to wait much longer for anyone to answer for her son's murder.

Arroyo said the family is worried the suspects will receive a "slap on the wrist" since they are so young and hopes the justice system won't let them down.

"I hope they do what is necessary," she said. "It's in the court's hands."

But for now, things have calmed down for the family a bit, Arroyo said — a peace she hopes can remain.

Johnny memorial ride (4).JPG

Johnny Peluyera's photo is propped up under the open hood of his blue Trans Am at Johnsen's Blue Top Drive-In in Highland.

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Morning Cops/Breaking News Reporter

Olivia is the morning cops/breaking news reporter at The Times. She spends her time monitoring traffic and weather reports, scanning crime logs and reading court documents. The Idaho native and University of Idaho grad has been with The Times since 2019.