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INDIANAPOLIS — The Highland man who led police on a high-speed pursuit through East Chicago and Hammond last February that resulted in a 13-year-old Whiting girl's death is not entitled to any reduction in his 15-year prison term, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

Donnell Howard Jr., 33, pleaded guilty in December to resisting law enforcement resulting in death, a level 3 felony; and resisting law enforcement resulting in serious bodily injury, a level 5 felony.

According to court records, Howard was the getaway driver for his girlfriend, Jessica Pichon, 29, of Danville, Illinois, who stole a case of beer from an East Chicago grocery store in view of a uniformed police officer who tried to stop them.

East Chicago police chased the couple into Hammond where records show Howard ran a red light and crashed into a vehicle at the intersection of Columbia Avenue and Gostlin Street, severely injuring Theresa Paramo, the driver, and killing her granddaughter, Julianna Chambers.

Howard argued in his appeal that Lake Superior Judge Diane Ross Boswell erred in sentencing him to consecutive 10- and 5-year prison terms, and that the 15-year total sentence was inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character.

In its 3-0 ruling, the appeals court concluded that consecutive sentences were justified since there were two victims, and 15 years was an appropriate term given Howard's "extreme indifference to human life throughout the chase."

The judges also noted that Howard had previously been convicted of two felony drug crimes, multiple misdemeanors, was driving without a license, had three children in Department of Child Services custody and planned to sell the stolen beer to buy crack.

"We conclude from this record that Howard has failed to demonstrate that his 15-year sentence is inappropriate," the court said.

Pichon also was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a separate case featuring identical charges.

The Court of Appeals last month affirmed her convictions and prison term, though she has requested the Indiana Supreme Court review that ruling.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.