MICHIGAN CITY — The father of a 17-year-old girl gunned down at a birthday party six years ago said he felt relieved as a jury found her shooter guilty of murder Tuesday night.
"I was going to get justice, period. I didn’t want my daughter to become no cold case," Kalvon Hawkins said a day after the verdict.
After deliberating for five hours Tuesday, a LaPorte Superior Court 1 jury found Charles Gerron guilty in the 2011 shooting death of NeKeisha Hodges-Hawkins.
Gerron could face 45 to 65 years at his Oct. 26 sentencing.
Hodges-Hawkins died from a single gunshot to the back of the head. Close to her was James Sanders, who was struck on his lower leg.
According to authorities, Hodges-Hawkins was among 50 or more people leaving a birthday party in Michigan City after a verbal altercation erupted between two women inside.
At least two men from rival gangs exchanged heated words in the parking lot when six shots rang out, according to court records.
During closing arguments, LaPorte County Prosecutor John Espar said evidence supports a witness claim that a man fitting the defendant's description fled afterward on a moped Gerron drove to the party.
Gerron was also seen with a gun tucked in his waistband, Espar said.
Espar said Gerron was overheard telling someone, "Let's shoot this party up and cut out." Gerron was accused of pulling up to a friend's house on a moped and revealing he shot Sanders and fired two other rounds.
Espar said the first three gunshots in the air were from then-18-year-old Cameron Kent while the final ones, fired more rapidly, were from Gerron.
Gerron may not have intended to harm the girl, but all that mattered for a conviction was knowing the risks of firing a gun into a crowd, he said.
The gun used in the killing was never recovered. However, Espar said Gerron was injured months prior by a .38 caliber handgun in his front pants pocket discharging, and the bullet fragment removed from the victim was from a weapon of the same caliber.
Defense attorney Scott King said several calibers leave the same bullet markings and believed police rushed to arrest Gerron to squelch protesting from the victim's family.
"If these witnesses were so compelling, why did it take you until Dec. 20, 2016, to accuse this young man?" King said.
King said Kent was arrested originally for both shootings but was given 18 months probation for the shooting of Sanders after agreeing to cooperate.
He was charged with criminal recklessness and King wondered why his client was hit with a more serious charge.
Murder charges were filed late last year, about one month after Kalvon Hawkins took to the streets and social media urging police to reopen the case.
"I fought six hard years for this. I wasn't going to stop. Somebody had to be held accountable for this," Kalvon Hawkins said.