Chesterton Tribune

Portage woman sentenced to 45 years for South Haven murder

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A Portage woman has been sentenced to 45 years in the Department of Correction after pleading guilty to the murder earlier this year of a South Haven man.

Jennifer Lynn Cook, 35, formerly of 2237 Willowcreek Road, was sentenced on Tuesday by Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek told the Chesterton Tribune today.

In July Cook pleaded guilty to the murder of Andrew Katzelis, 82, under an agreement with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office which provided for a sentence of 45 years. Murder is punishable by a sentence of 45 to 65 years. Cook will be eligible for release after she has served half that sentence.

As part of that agreement, an additional charge against Cook of attempted burglary was dismissed.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Det. Andy Hrivnak of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, on Sunday, Jan. 11, Katzelis’ body was found lying on the bed of his home on U.S. Highway 6, west of Ind. 149. Katzelis had sustained a single gunshot wound to the head and evidence at the scene, including a .38 caliber handgun, initially led investigators to believe that Katzelis had committed suicide, Hrivnak stated in his affidavit.

Hrivnak subsequently discovered, however, in interviews with friends and relatives, that Katzelis had been having a relationship with a woman, identified as Cook, whom he suspected of stealing from him. On Thursday, Jan. 15, four days after Katzelis’ body was found, Hrivnak interviewed Cook, who advised that on Thursday, Jan. 8--three days before his body was found--Katzelis had bonded her out of the Porter County Jail, where she was being held on a criminal charge unrelated to the case.

Katzelis then drove Cook to his home in South Haven, Cook advised Katzelis, where they snuggled together on his bed. At some point, Cook advised, she noticed a handgun on the bed, grabbed it, pointed it at Katzelis, and fired one shot, then dropped the gun and fled the scene.

The next day, Friday, Jan. 9, two days before Katzelis’ body was found, Cook returned to the scene and staged it to look like a suicide, she advised Hrivnak.

Cook and another person, William Thomason, 26, of Portage, had been charged in connection with the attempted burglary of Katzelis’ residence two days before his death.

The Porter County Drug Task Force, the Valparaiso Police Department, and the Portage Police Department assisted the PCSP with the investigation.



Posted 9/3/2009