A convicted sex
offender who did time for trying to lure a Chesterton girl into running away
with him in 2011 has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after admitting
that he killed a mentally challenged woman and buried her in the Dunes in
Gary five years ago.
Fuller, 39, was sentenced on Monday.
originally charged with the murder of Sylvia Marie Jones; with abuse of a
corpse, for cutting off Jones’ hands to make identification more difficult;
and with altering the scene of a death.
Under the terms of
an agreement reached with the Lake County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office,
Fuller pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, in
exchange for which the original three charges were dismissed.
manslaughter is a Class A felony punishable by a term of 20 to 50 years.
previously resided in Michigan City, was sentenced in July 2012 to three
years in the Indiana Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to an
amended charge of neglect of a dependent. Chesterton Police said that, in
January 2011, he was caught in the act of trying to help a 15-year-old local
girl run away from her home.
When taken into
custody at that time, Fuller was found to be in possession of Sylvia Marie
Jones’ debit card and unsuccessful attempts to locate Jones by the CPD
prompted a missing person’s investigation, according to the probable cause
affidavit filed by Det. Richard Strong of the Indiana State Police.
CPD Det. Lt. Dave
Adkins and Det. James Copollo subsequently spoke with Jones’ mother, a New
Albany, Ind., resident, who advised that she hadn’t heard from her daughter
in almost two years. But the last time Jones spoke to her mother, she did
say that “she was living in Michigan City” with a man named John and
“hooking,” Strong stated in his affidavit.
A records check
later showed that, on Oct. 13, 2009, Jones was admitted to LaPorte Hospital
after a suicide attempt and that Fuller had been with her when admitted,
Strong stated. “The hospital record indicated that Johnnathan Fuller had
power of attorney over Sylvia Marie Jones. The hospital records also
indicated that Sylvia Marie Jones had a ‘cognitive (deficit),’ ‘mild
retardation,’ and ‘bi-polar disorder.’”
Then, on Aug. 30,
2010, a man hunting snakes and lizards in the Dunes in the 8800 block of
U.S. Highway 20 in Gary found what looked like a human skull, Strong stated.
That grave site was excavated and, along with the skull and some bones, a
pair of blue jeans and a coat were recovered. A little more than a year
later, a University of Indianapolis forensic anthropologist positively
identified the skull as Jones’, while a DNA test confirmed that
identification, Strong stated.
month before the skull was identified as Jones’, an acquaintance of Fuller’s
advised investigators that Fuller had admitted to him killing Jones. Fuller
specifically told the acquaintance that he’d killed Jones with an ax, that
he’d first lured her to a beach in the Gary area by telling her that they
were going “to dig up some money he had buried,” that he had her dig the
hole herself, and that he then used a “sledge hammer/ax” and bludgeoned
Jones seven times. Fuller also told the acquaintance that he next “flattened
Jones’ face,” then “cut off her hands to make it more difficult to identify
her by fingerprints,” and finally buried Jones in the hole which she had
to (his acquaintance) that he thought it was funny that he tricked (Jones)
into ‘digging her own grave,’” Strong stated.
as well to Fuller’s ex-wife, who advised that Jones had lived with her and
Fuller for two months in the fall of 2009 and that Fuller told his wife at
the time that he was taking Jones’ “Social Security money.” But Jones was
“having problems with the Internet and talking to strangers” and that is why
Fuller “got rid of her,” his ex-wife told investigators.
mother advised that, when she told Fuller she was going to call the police
and report her daughter as a missing person, Fuller threatened her. “You
ain’t going to never see your daughter or talk to her again,” she remembered
Fuller saying. “If I have to I’ll come get you too. I’ll do you like I did
Fuller, for his
part, tells a different story in the plea agreement. In October 2009, he
stipulates, he agreed to drive Jones to a homeless shelter and for reasons
not disclosed stopped in the Dunes area north of U.S. Highway 20 in Gary.
There he became angry with Jones, allegedly because he saw her engaged in
inappropriate sexual contact with a young male relative of his, and “while
acting under sudden heat” struck her with a “blunt object.” He admits
cutting off Jones’ hands but no mention is made of who dug the woman’s
previously convicted twice in Porter County of sexual battery, in 1998 and
2000; and twice of attempted theft, in 2000 and 2003.