CROWN POINT -- Lake County's most prolific mass murderer was sentenced Tuesday to 300 years in prison for the slayings of five people in the Aetna neighborhood of Gary in February 2000.
Cleveland "Chris" Bynum, 22, of 4028 Jackson St., Gary, turned and chastised the families of the victims during his sentencing hearing, saying, "You never knew what went on. All you know is the name Chris came up. If you really cared about your families, you would have made the police do their work. Now I've got to fight for my life for something I didn't do."
The brother of one of Bynum's victims said he was "insulted" by Bynum's tirade and said the police did their work well.
"You kill five people, you should be in the hot chair," said Willie Marshall, brother of Anthony "Amp" Jeffers, 24, of Gary. "I don't understand why it was not a death penalty case."
At the time the charges were filed, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he was leaning toward a death request, but said the cross-racial makeup of the defendant and victims made for a built-in appeal, while the sentence of years would leave Bynum behind bars for the rest of his life without that appellate issue.
Bynum is black, and all the victims but Jeffers were white.
After sentencing, Deputy Prosecutor Susan Collins said the 300-year term may not carry the emotional impact of a death sentence but was more likely to stand on appeal while bringing closure to the families.
Shawn Bartee of Portage, whose wife, Sheila, 37, was among the victims, said he thought the sentence was fair.
"Justice was finally served," he said. "They said his intent was to eliminate witnesses. Well this sends a message that these witnesses are human beings, human beings with families, and the court recognized that today."
Defense attorney Charles Graddick asked that Bynum be sentenced concurrently on each murder count, but Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray was adamant in his refusal, stacking five 60-year terms atop one another for the 300-year total. Bynum would not be eligible for parole for 150 years.
"To sentence concurrently is tantamount to a 2-for-1 sale on murder, and that will not happen in this courtroom, not on my watch," Murray said. "A price must be paid for each one of these victims. The defendant has shown no regard for human life; he mercilessly killed these five people execution-style.
"These crimes constitute mass murder. I assess Mr. Bynum's character as evil and sadistic, and the court finds no mitigating circumstances."
According to testimony, Bynum, a drug dealer, was angry at one of the victims who he believed was talking too much about his business.
That victim, Elizabeth Daily-Ayers, 37, of Hobart, had paged Bynum earlier in the evening, and when she and a friend met him, he accused her. Her body was found nude,
her head smashed by a blunt instrument and a gunshot wound.
Collins said in her argument she believes Bynum was looking for a hidden recording device when he stripped the woman. Judge Murray said, "This suggests she was tortured."
Bynum told police it was Jeffers who shot and killed Ayers and her friend, Sheila Bartee, who also was found with a gunshot in the head. Both were left in a baseball field near 14th Avenue and Idaho Street.
Bynum and Jeffers returned to Jeffers' home, where an argument over the shooting began and Bynum shot Jeffers as the two struggled over a gun. When Jeffers' wife and sister began screaming, Bynum shot both of them in the head at close range.
When police arrived, they found the couple's 18-month-old daughter, Katrina, crying, covered in her mother's blood. Their 12-year-old son was found hiding in an upstairs bedroom.
Sisters Angela Wallace, 24, and Suzanne Wallace, 34, were pronounced dead at the scene.
The Wallaces' aunt, Cathy Yost, has moved to Gary from Jasper County to help with the children. She said after the sentencing, "It's fair, but it doesn't bring back five lives. But I feel sorry for (Bynum's) family, too. Nobody raises their child to be a killer."
Mark Kiesling can be reached at email@example.com or (219) 662-5330.
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