Family fights teen's felony murder charge

By: Barbara Harrington Email
By: Barbara Harrington Email

The mother of an Elkhart teen charged with "felony murder" is fighting to make sure her son doesn't spend his life in prison for a life he didn't take.

On Oct. 3, 21-year-old Danzele Johnson, 16-year-old Jose Quiroz, 16-year-old Blake Layman, 17-year-old Levi Sparks and 18-year-old Anthony Sharp broke into a home in the 1900 block of Frances Avenue in Elkhart.

The homeowner, Rodney Scott, fired his handgun at the group.

Danzele Johnson was shot and killed; Layman took a bullet to the leg.

A few days later, the Elkhart County Prosecutor charged all surviving teens with felony murder.

"It was awful to know he made a bad choice anyway, that the boys decided to go in the man's house," said Layman's mother, Angie Johnson. "But, to turn something so terrible into murder charges? Devastating."

Now Johnson and the rest of her family are fighting to get the charges changed.

They've hung up posters all over town and even started an online petition.

"I feel all the kids are responsible for their own lives when they went into that house," Johnson said. "And, it could have been mine. If it was mine, I wouldn't want to see the other teens face charges for their friend's death."

Johnson says her son has never been in trouble with the law and is a good student.

He also worked as much as 30 hours a week at a local fast food restaurant before his arrest.

Johnson's family believes Layman and his friends should be punished, but only for crimes they actually committed.

"if these charges don't get dropped, they have no future," said Layman's great aunt, Tammy Dovel. "And, can we do that to four teenagers? They could get out of there and make a huge difference in the world."

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