Ingham County Judge Weighs Sentence for 15-Year-Old Murder Convict

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- Those who testified Wednesday in the sentencing hearing for convicted 15-year-old killer Charles Lewis, Jr., agreed: -- His chances of recovery aren't very good.

"Charles has exhibited a tremendously intense and repetitive pattern of anti-social attitudes, anti-social beliefs and anti-social behavior," testified Dr. Leonard Vanderjagt, a psychologist called on Wednesday by the prosecutions.

But they all also were adamant: He shouldn't yet be sentenced to life in prison.

"I believe, if there's a small opportunity of change, given his age -- that we should embrace that," said James Dudzinski, a juvenile court officer who has worked with Lewis Jr. at detention centers in the past.

He, Vanderjagt and a second JCO all recommended a delayed sentence for Lewis Jr., who at 13 years old participated in a July 2010 botched robbery in Lansing that ended in the shooting death of 19-year-old Shayla Johnson.

Six others await trial in federal court, including Lewis Jr.'s father, who is the alleged gunman.

A "delayed sentence" would mean a juvenile center until 21, then a prison sentence to be determined.

"There are aspects of being 15 that are clearly different from being an adult," Vanderjagt said, when asked why he isn't recommending a life sentence.

The defense, which is pushing for a juvenile sentence, noted Lewis Jr. was not the shooter.

"You recognize that every single other one of the people involved was an adult, including one of them being his own father?," the defense attorney asked one of the lead LPD detectives.

The prosecution argued Lewis Jr. is a member of the Lansing-based "Block Burners" gang and has an extensive criminal history, including 19 police reports.

Lewis Jr.'s mother sat next to her son throughout the testimony -- and is pleading for leniency.

Johnson's mother said she wants him to go away for a long time, but is open to the idea of a delayed sentence.

"Anybody's who had their child murdered, dragged out of their home, thrown into the trunk of a car and shot and killed -- how would you feel?," she said Wednesday after testimony.

She added she's working on forgiving the killers -- though she's not there yet.

Judge George Economy is expected to hand down a sentence Tuesday. His options are life in prison, delayed sentence or juvenile sentence.


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