About The Elkhart 4

Blake Layman, Levi Sparks, Jose Quiroz, Anthony Sharp

The Elkhart 4

In October 2012 four teens and one young adult from Elkhart County Indiana made a horrible decision that would change their lives forever.  Not in school they decided one afternoon to break into a house.  They knocked on doors and decided that one house was empty.  Jose Quiroz (age 16), Blake Layman (age 16), Anthony Sharp (Age 18) and Danzele Johnson (age 21) broke into the house.  Levi Sparks (age 17) waited on the porch of the house across the street.

Sleeping in the house at the time was Rodney Scott, the homeowner.  Mr. Scott, was woken by the noise of the burglary,  grabbed his gun and shot several times.  The bullets killed 21 year old Danzele Johnson and wounded 16 year old Blake Layman.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill made the decision to charge Blake, Jose, Levi and Anthony with felony murder for the death of Danzele Johnson.  All were charged as adults.  Felony murder is a part of the law which states that if someone dies during the commission of a felony everyone involved in the felony can be charged with first degree murder.  The prosecutor does not need to prove the intent to murder, just intent to commit the initial crime.

After months in Jail 16 year old Jose Quiroz accepted a plea deal.   At sentencing Jose Quiroz said he wanted to withdrawal the deal.  Judge Terry Shewmaker denied this request and sentenced a sixteen year old boy to 45 years in prison for a murder he did not do.

Layman, Sharp and Sparks went to trial in August of 2013 and were found guilty.  On September 12, 2013 Judge Shewmaker sentenced Blake Layman and Anthony Sharp to 55 years in prison and Levi Sparks to 50 years in prison.  Again for a murder they did not do.

These boys did commit a crime in October of 2012 (Break and Enter).  It is awful that Danzele Johnson was killed by a frightened Rodney Scott who was sleeping in his house when the boys broke in.   The behaviour of Blake, Levi, Anthony and Jose cannot be condoned.  These boys must learn an important lesson here.  A well functioning society can’t have people acting with such disregard to others . . . but, none of these boys murdered anyone . . . three of them were juveniles at the time . . . the person who died in this case was a friend who they continue to mourn for.  Does the actions of these boys warrant 55 years in prison with the worst of the worst?  In our opinion this case demonstrates a huge overreach of the criminal justice system.  Any possibility of redemption has been abandoned and these boys are being thrown away to spend their lives in a failing and often brutal prison system.

This blog is dedicated to discussing this horrible injustice.  It is also dedicated to discussing juvenile justice issues in the USA.

This blog is not associated with any of the families or people involved in this case.  The main goal of this blog is shine a light on a what we consider to be a horrible injustice in a system that tolerates far too many injustices.

Our Stories on the Elkhart 4:

Deja Vu — Snother Similar Case, Another Different Result — October 6, 2013

One Year On — Three Questions Curtis Hill Does Not Want Us Asking — October 3, 2013

2 Cases, Similar Facts, Different Outcomes — September 27, 2013

Is Curtis Hill Using the Case of the Elkhart 4 to Expand The Felony Murder Rule in Indiana?  – September 24, 2013

The Elkhart Truth Article:  A good start but 353 days late – September 22, 2013

It will cost taxpayers at least 3.1 million dollars to send the Elkhart 4 to prison — September 17, 2013

An Editorial in The Elkhart Truth With a Strong And Powerful Message — September 15, 2013

Does the Goshen News Favour Curtis Hill? – September 15, 2013

Does The Elkhart Truth Live Up To Their Own Standards When Reporting On The Elkhart 4 — September 5, 2013

How Would Canada Deal With The Elkhart 4 — August 30, 2013

Curtis Hill Just Spent $2 500 000 of Indian Tax Dollars – On What?  August 28, 2013

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us by using the contact form below.  This will send an email to the blog administrator.  This is not a discussion forum.

66 comments

  • unbelievable…..devastating. Can they not appeal?

  • Iam sorry,But I believe that these boys got what they deserve,What would of happened to these boys if they had of killed the homeowner?Probably would not have gotten such a stiff sentence,Iam sorry for the families of these boys,And Iam sure the homeowner feels pretty bad about having to shoot these young boys,But all these boys sealed their fates,As they entered that home!!!!

    • But they had no intent of killing anybody!!! They were young stupid kids looking to rob somebody, without them being home, omg, that is ridiculous, they do not deserve what they got, they deserve breaking and entering charges! Wtf is wrong with the system! (it would be totally different if they were armed and tried to hurt the homeowner)

    • They should be charged for home invasion, period!! Had they killed the homeowner then the sentence would be justified. The boy that died also chose to go in the house, they are not responsible for his actions, only their own.

    • Debbie, I’m sorry that you have no common sense. They are NOT murderers and therefore did not get what they deserve. They deserve punishment for burglary but not murder. How can you or anyone be so blind as not to see that?

    • mtmmdavis@yahoo.com

      It doesn’t really matter what you think because burglary is NOT murder. They are being charged as an example to potential other burglars. 50 years really!? Have YOU never done anything stupid or broke any law??? Maybe you should serve 50 years in prison.

      • Yet it matters what you think?
        Everyone has done something stupid and probably broken a law even if it is just driving too fast. However, the vast majority of people have not been so crassly stupid as to make a mistake that ends in a death. How would you have felt as the homeowner – waking up, coming downstairs to find four men in your house roaming around? He has to live with a situation forced upon him forever. Your last sentence is just no argument at all.

    • Debbie I say kudos for sharing your opinion since on this page it is in the minority. As for Rebecca and mtmmdavis…that is very mature of you two to be so disrespectful to someone for sharing their opinion. She never said anything demeaning about these young men in her post nor did she attack anyone else. She is entitled to her opinion and Rebecca before you call someone else out for lack of common sense take a minute to reflect…common sense generally dictates if someone isn’t rude and disrespectful to you, you don’t automatically be rude and disrespectful to them as for mtmmdavis…your right that burglary is not murder…but Felony Murder and Murder are defined and listed on the law books as 2 separate entities for a reason..because the requirements for each to be applicable are different…and plenty of people do stupid things…not all those things violate the law…and a lot of people stupid choices that DO break the law rarely are classified as felonies and rarely put peoples lives in danger…so since I think it doesn’t matter what you think or think that you don’t understand things should I insult you and say you should be in prison? It’s sad people can’t share their thoughts one way or another without people coming out of the woodwork to hurl insults and in some cases on other sites, threats and attacks at them for sharing said thoughts…It doesn’t take much to make a mature, intelligent and well thought out argument without the petty insults and disrespect…If people want real change then they need to realize that…insults and petty little attacks on people won’t get you anywhere

      • You know: the same way you say that “Debbie” is entitled to her opinion, these two are also entitled to their opinions, aren’t they? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical -on your part- to criticize them for criticizing another person on this site? And when you ask “should I [...] say you should be in prison?” to mtmmdavis, you do NOT have a point, here. I don’t mean to be rude, but mtmmdavis is suggesting that Debbie get a taste of her own medicine, since she thinks it’s a good idea. What is YOUR argument, Dan?
        Also, nobody insulted anyone. :) Telling someone that they’re “so blind” to something is not an insult, it’s a critic or a negative response, however you want to look at it. (Believe it or not, even calling someone “ignorant” is not an actual insult either. If you look it up, it really means something along the lines of “Someone who lacks information about something.”
        Obviously, the law is very flawed, it is NOT always fair and just, but people ARE too blind to ever question it. If you want a good example, think about the time before women could vote. I’m sure that if a female had voted in the 1920′s, she would have been committing some sort of misdemeanor/felony or whatever (according to the law). Was that fair, too? because the law said so?
        I won’t go into details, but obviously, the reason there’s so much frustration and so much conversation about the Elkhart 4 is that they do NOT deserve to be in jail for that long, but we have people in this community who can’t see something so obvious. Some people who actually commit murder get less than that.

      • Totally agree with you. There is no need to be belittling, telling people they “have no common sense” or that they are “blind” just for having a different opinion. Saying that someone should be in prison for each and every mistake is also a non-argument. We aren’t talking about coming home late or even fare-dodging, we are talking about taking away a homeowner’s sense of safety in his own home, frightening him half to death when he wakes up to see people wandering around and then in his blind panic, shooting. He has to live with what happened forever.
        He didn’t choose to change his life forever, those five did that for him.

    • Do you see how absurd your comment is? You ask: what would have happened (not “would of”, btw, learn to spell, Debbie) if they had killed the homeowner, and then you add that they wouldn’t have gotten such a stiff sentence… So, from YOUR logic, it makes sense to get a harsher sentence if one of your friends get killed and you almost get killed by a homeowner than if you actually killed them? No offense, but something is wrong with that way of thinking.

    • Jeez Debbie, what kind of a human being are you??! these boys were just that, boys!. Thank god I live in Australia, where Felony murder doesn’t exist, I pray to god that justice is eventually served properly, there is no way these kids should be in jail for 55 years! What the hell is wrong with America??!

  • WE SHOULD START A PROTEST ?!! WHO IS WITH ME????

  • That’s horrible. I’m watching now on Dr. Phil I hAve a kid and It would kill me to see my son go through something Like this. Total INJUSTICE. PRAY TO GOD THEY’VE LEARNED THEIR LESSON AND THAT SOON THEY CAN BE REUNITED WITH THEIR FAMILIES!

  • This is disgusting. Danzelle made a choice to enter that home, he was not being held captive or being forced to commit a crime. Indiana has used these boys to make an example plain and simple and that’s BS. 50yrs?! Outrageous! Should they serve time? Yes. 50yrs? NO!

  • La Shaundrea K Harris

    This is so sad. Yes…these boys were wrong and should pay for the burglary crime they committed but it is not right that they should be convicted of murder. Unfortunately, that is the problem with our criminal justice system. We’ve become so focused on retribution and so called “just desserts” that we have begun throwing even our babies in the trash of the system not valuing their lives enough to count them worthy of even an attempt at rehabilitation. Is it not possible that these babies might learn from the mistake of this crime with proper guidance?

  • We have first hand shooters, cold blooded intentional murderers walking away with 25yrs. 50yrs is excessive and absurd!

    • I agree. They need to serve time but 50 yrs combined would’ve been better.

    • I have seen murderers get way less then this sentence, and the person stalked and murder the victim. I’ve seen drunk drivers kill the other driver they walked away with less than 5 yrs ….

  • I am confused and feel bad even thinking this but why are these boys in prison for committing a crime with an adult who died while committing a crime

    • I think we need to remember that Danzele made a choice and he did decide to go into the house. He was the oldest and should have know better. That being said what happened to him is a real tragedy.

      • *known better you meant. Hopefully. I think they should all get like ten years and serve five years with five suspended so they have to prove they learned their lesson when they parole out. All that said, i didn’t like how on Dr. Phil the moms paint them to be little innocent angels when one of them is in aa gang and they’re all hanging with him and the 21 yr old thug too. The one kid blake talked like he had a fourth grade vocabulary and couldnt articulate anything he was trying to say, so obviously he wasnt a schoolboy. All wannabe gangsters who were on the wrong path. But levi should be freed immediately if it is true that he didn’t enter the home unless he was the ringleader who set it all up

      • Thanks for the spelling correction. Editing has never been my strong point and I have so many of these comments to go through.

    • I believe the “system” is setting an example with these boys. I completely agree they need to receive punishment for breaking and entering but 45+ years each is way too harsh.

      • Curtis Hill the Elkhart Country Prosecutor has implied that he is making an example of these boys.

      • Bob dole, stick with the issue..the issue here is the sentence not the fact that you think the two black kids were in a gang….to bring lack of an education into this is absurd…

      • Is it really too harsh, I would like to know what the parents of the dead boy have to say , you enter my house , you will die, I won’t miss a single one of the supposed burglars

      • I may have completely missed the boat, but last time I checked “making an example of…” isn’t justice.

  • Clearly an overreach by the justice system by a prosecutor hoping to make a name for himself. There is a 15 year old boy in my city that was sentenced to 6 life terms plus 188 years for a home invasion where no one was hurt and nothing was taken The others involved took a deal that gave them 10 years in prison. This boy was punished for taking his chances at trial. A freedom which is suppose to give us our day in court. Clearly, these boys must be punished for doing this stupid thing but throwing them away like yesterday’s trash is not the answer. First, we are too lenient on young lawbreakers, then we are way too tough. And let’s not talk about the kid who got drunk, took a vehicle and killed 4 people and permanently maimed 2 people and got probation. We are all over the map on punishment. Anyone under the age of 25 should be given a second chance to be released unless he has a pattern of violent behavior and have been given a chance already. And how can an act already deemed self defense by one side of your mouth be called murder out of the other side of the same mouth?? I am a true hardass when it comes to handing down punishment for lawbreakers but studies have shown that brain development in people under the age of 25 does not recognize criminal behavior consequences and this must be taken into account when sentencing.

    • Cheryl you brought up a good point about the teen that killed 4 people…his sentence is like a lot of drunk drivers sentence..a few years and probation. That’s why this case upsets me. All we are doing by sending these 3 kids to jail for 50 yrs is creating 3 grown men who will get out when they are 65 + and they will not be upstanding citizens most likely…

  • You must go put up a Facebook page for this right now! If already up, I couldn’t find it. If not up, you’re missing a prime opportunity! This case is outrageously wrong!!

    • Hi, we tried the Facebook thing, but it was too much keeping both up and this platform was better for writing articles. That being said there are support Facebook Pages. We link to Jose’s families page under Links in our top menu. There are also support pages for Blake and Levi.

      • I understand that this is easier, but the exposure on FB is huge. The Free Ryan Ferguson wall developed a huge following and led to his finally being released. Individual pages won’t have as much impact as the group story. I highly recommend you reconsider. You only have to post updates now and then. If there was a link to it on Dr. Phil’s wall right now, it would be getting seen by a lot of people.

  • This is absurd! I don’t believe that they’ll pull all of that time, maybe 20 years, which is to long, I have a son and I wouldn’t want to live if this were to happen to him.

  • Really? They should definitely be punished. Too harsh is 55 years, though. Why did they break into the home in the first place? How frightening it would be to encounter someone in my own home. The homeowner had every right to defend himself. I’m watching Dr. Phil right now. Where are the fathers of these felons? Typical

  • I just finished watching the doctor phil show on this. it is absolutely outrageous to put them in jail for 55 years!!! is there some type of petition people can sign about this? these boys did wrong but they are not hardened criminals…. The are justice system seems to let the really bad guys go and then punished these guys way Over the top!!! I am angry…where is the common sense??

  • Im disgusted to see how out “justice” system is working for the people. They were being dumb kids…. they never could have felt that there was eminent danger…. they’re kids doing something dumb. They put effort into finding a house with no one home and one of the boys chose to not even enter!
    They’re entire life has been taken away for something that they did at 16. Its so sad and i hope they can appeal this. Its so sad that someone died but can we be more reasonable human being while still taking the law into consideration? Some people are so strict about the law that they forget that these laws affect real people. each situation is different and should be treated as such.
    I wish these kids would have taken the stand.

  • Is there anyway we can send mail to these boys?

  • I agree in a protest as well.

  • Why is the homeowner not charged with murder? Seriously, America is so messed up with there gun laws. I’m from Canada and here you can only use the same amount of force as the perpetrator to defend yourself. These kids had no weapons, yet they were shot dead???

    • Most states in the USA have the castle law which allow a homeowner to protect their houses. This is clearly reflected in Indiana law. Another poster copied out the law and it is very clear. I agree with you that this case is not fair, but I strongly caution passing that onto the homeowner. Personally I cannot imagine what it would be like waking up in that situation. I don’t know what I would think or how I would act. Truthfully I hope never to know because I hope never to be in that situation. Curtis Hill the prosecutor for Elkhart Country cleared the homeowner and that was the right decision. I only have the deepest compassion for the homeowner. The situation these boys put him in is unacceptable. I may advocate for them, but I have always said they have responsibility in all of this. I hope the homeowner has been able to move past this and can find happiness and joy in his life and for years to come.

    • Although this is a major miscarriage of justice. If your home is invaded, you should always have a right to take action. I couldn’t imagine having my home broken into, and only be able to stand there and wait for what’s next.

  • Just saw this on Dr. Phil and my mouth hit the floor! Sentence them for the dumb mistake they made as children – NOT AS MURDERERS!! Prayers to the boys and families.

  • A home invasion? Are you kidding me? Perhaps maybe the people that are stating they got what they deserve should indeed here all the details of the crime – these 16 year old boys who don’t have a record knocked on doors to make sure people weren’t home BECAUSE THEY WEREN’T LOOKING TO HARM ANYONE – Yes they committed b & e – punishishment should fit the crime not be handed out to make an example of.

    • In Australia the boys would have been charged with breaking & entering & the homeowner would have been charged with murder!!

  • HORRIBLE! I am praying for true justice for these boys. Yes, the Law is the law, but seriously, this is a horrific misgiving and the law needs to be changed. They will get out-keep your heads up. May God’s peace surround you!

  • Saw this on Dr Phil. I think the time is overkill. What they did was wrong by breaking in the house, but 45 to 55 years considering they have no criminal history is unjust. So sorry for the loss of their friend, and so sorry to the families and friends of these young men who are currently incarcerated. I hope something good comes of this.

  • Most of us have done wrong things, but stop undermining the seriousness if this crime. It is not stealing candy from a store. It is trespassing and going into someone else’s home. We want to protect our children. I get it. But what do you think is the appropriate sentence? What is their backstory? Why would they/did they choose such a serious crime? Where are the kids fathers? Didn’t see any if them on the show or have heard about them at all. All these things are factors.

  • in paragraph 1 you cite one of the people to be named “Anthony Sharp (Age 18)” but in paragraph 5 you say his name is “Anthony Sparks”

  • The injustice of the ruling still leaves me outraged and confused. These boys should absolutely be held accountable for their actions, meaning the breaking and entering(burglary). These boys should not be accountable for serving this much jail time for a crime of murder that they did not commit. This system is very flawed, and the injustice of this law in regards to these boys. I pray for their reduced sentancing and for a charge that is rightfully suited for the crime they did commit. These boys had no previous criminal history and the sentancing was insane. My heart goes out to their mothers and families, and I pray justice will be done.

  • Chantelle Tilley

    Think this whole case is a load of BS…IN no way shape or form should they have been charged with felony murder!!! Thinking of those boys and their families all the way from Australia

  • So glad this kind of injustice can’t happen in Aus our reasonable force laws mean home owners can only protect their home with the same amount of force used by intruders. If an intruder is unarmed then so must be the home owner.

  • Hi, I’m from Australia and the thing is as a human my instinct to hearing noise would be to lock your door to whichever room you may be in, and call the police straight away, these boys were generally pumping with fright and adrenalin, as a teenage boy they would not be thinking anything of a truck in the backyard, wallet and watch, the only thing they would be thinking is they scored something, then for them to see someone with a gun and looking at them,there first instinct is proceeding to run which is an obvious statement that they are scared and frightened, to open fire at them and then doing it yet again proves this home owner wanted to kill! Frighten or not the home owner killed a man and injured a boy! For him to then get a slap on the wrist then shows everyone else that you are aloud to open fire at someone if they are uninvited in your home. Yes the boys should pay for there crime, but 50+ years should not be aloud! The biggest thing that disgusts me is that Levi did not take part at all and yet got 50 years! You can not tell me that if you were in Levi’s situation you would call the police and dob in your friends! I think the boys sentence needs to be changed to the sentence of burglary for that was all they did. I just saw the Dr.Phil episode of them and it was in no way the boys fault that there friend died! They went in there will full knowledge of what could happen, which is obvious why Levi didn’t go in! To the people defending the homeowner saying it’s not his fault, it is, most lawyers defending him weren’t there! Blake faced a traumatic experience of his friend dying in his arms! These boys need to be sentenced with burglary not murder it’s inhuman. The law has now given every person permission to open fire at anyone in there home.

  • And another thing! These are BOYS the one who passed away was an adult but the law is very one sided to charge them as adults! I would be looking into home invasions cases were someone died to see how long they got in prison because this to me is completely inhuman.

  • So Zimmerman purposely followed and killed an unarmed teen, the girl in Florida little girl went missing but they are both free? These boys had no business breaking in someone’s home and should be punished for that. But they were unarmed and each one made their own decisions to enter the home. The boy that was killed was 21 and really should have known better. I’m sorry for the boys families, especially the one that lost his life, but the sentencing was way to harsh.

  • time for a new prosecutor one that has common sense and a heart

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