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Kevin Campbell, Tiara Thomas

Kevin Campbell, Tiara Thomas

VALPARAISO — Former Gary and Hammond police officer Kevin Campbell told jurors Thursday morning he had nothing to do with the Nov. 18, 2015, shooting death of the mother of three of his children at her Portage apartment.

Campbell, 33, occasionally became choked up and wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke for the first time after spending nearly three weeks listening to evidence prosecutors said identify him as the person responsible for murdering 30-year-old Tiara Thomas.

Campbell testified that he learned of the shooting that same morning while returning from taking the couple's three children to school from his Hobart home where they had stayed the night before.

When asked by Porter County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost why he twice refrained from telling police he stopped at a park to dispose of a bag while taking his children to school that morning, Campbell said he had a lot on his mind after learning about the death of his mother's children.

"I simply forgot, that's all," he said.

Campbell said he immediately cooperated with police and agreed to undergo a gunshot residue test on his body, which was never carried out.

Prosecutors have said the couple's relationship had deteriorated to the point of a "contentious breakup" and Campbell's child support obligation was nearly doubled to $355 a week shortly before the killing.

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Campbell said he ended the relationship after learning about Thomas' repeated infidelities. He also described her deciding at the last minute not to let their children take part in his wedding to another woman.

He told both his attorney and Frost that the increased child support payments did not pose a financial hardship since he and his wife were working.

While he said he was behind in making car and house payments due to the cost of his wedding, Campbell said he was in the process of resolving his debt.

When Frost questioned him about having 30 tax collector calls on his cell phone and having more than $29,000 of debt in collections, Campbell challenged the figures saying there were only two collectors and $17,000 of the debt was student loans.

Campbell also challenged claims that it was unusual for him to have asked his son to bring him a key to their mother's apartment less than two weeks before the shooting. He said he routinely reminded his son to bring a key so he would not be locked out, even though Frost said on the visit in question it had been arranged to return the children directly to their mother.

Prosecutors have argued that it was unusual for Campbell to take his children overnight during a school week and he confirmed for Frost that he carried through with the visit at the time of the shooting despite being ill with the flu.

Closing arguments in the trial are expected to take place Tuesday morning before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.

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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.