A LaPorte man who was driving under the influence of heroin when he
rear-ended another vehicle on I-94 near Chesterton, killing a woman, was
sentenced to 15 years in the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC).
Jonathan E. Sanchez, 33, was originally charged with operating while
intoxicated with a controlled substance or its metabolite in his
blood-causing death, a Class B felony punishable by a term of six to 20
On Monday, Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford sentenced Sanchez to
the advisory term of 10 years, then added 10 more years for aggravating
circumstances, then suspended five years, for an effective sentence of 15
Bradford also ordered Sanchez to pay restitution to the victim’s family of
According to police, at 4:32 p.m. Oct. 8, 2011, Sanchez was eastbound on
I-94 at the 30.5 mile marker--approximately three miles west of the Michigan
City exit--when he looked down to grab his cell phone.
When Sanchez looked up again, he found that traffic was slowing and he
attempted to brake but lost control of his Ford Ranger, went left, and rear
ended a minivan in which Jaya C. Patel of Canton, Mich., was a rear seat
passenger. Patel was pronounced dead at the scene after being extricated by
In his probable cause affidavit, Det. Mike Bailey of the Indiana State
Police stated that several witnesses advised that the driver of a Ford
Ranger later identified as the one Sanchez was driving “was weaving in and
out of several lanes of traffic without using a turn signal, nearly striking
three vehicles.” Several witnesses also advised that they observed one of
the two male subjects in the Ford Ranger toss “a small object into the tall
weeds to the south side of the roadway” after the crash, Bailey stated.
A Chesterton firefighter later searched the area by the side of the road and
recovered a syringe which Sanchez subsequently admitted was his, Bailey
Sanchez’s passenger at the time of the crash later gave Bailey this account.
“He said that Jonathan Sanchez picked him up in Valparaiso and was giving
him a ride,” Bailey stated. “He also said that he and Jonathan used heroin
many times together. When Jonathan picked him up, Jonathan said to him, ‘I’m
not sick any more. I got some stuff.’ He said he took this to mean that he
had heroin. He also said that based on how Jonathan was acting he believed
him to be high on heroin at the time he was driving.”
In a blood test conducted after the crash, Sanchez tested positive for
morphine with a level of 214 ng/ml serum, Bailey stated.