Jury finds E.C. man guilty of murder
Saturday, July 28, 2007 12:36 AM CDT
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CROWN POINT | A jury convicted an East Chicago man of
murder Friday.

Steven Santana faces 65 years when Lake Criminal Court
Judge Clarence Murray sentences him Aug. 29.

The jury began deliberating Friday after hearing
Santana, 21, say he was sleeping in his parents' car
as they shopped when 15-year-old Rudolf Swisher was
shot to death.

Swisher died on bike he was riding on East Chicago's
Northcote Avenue when a gunman dressed in black shot
him four times in the back.

Santana told jurors he was a member of the Imperial
Gangsters who lived with his parents within territory
ruled by rival gang the Latin Kings.

Earlier in the evening of July 1, 2006, Santana said
he was on his porch when a known member of the Latin
Kings, Luis Ortiz, came by on his bike threatening
him. Swisher was riding his bike along with Ortiz, but
Swisher rode away during the confrontation, Santana
said.

Santana said after the encounter, he went with his
parents and sister to the grocery store. Earlier in
the trial, Santana's mother testified her son
accompanied the family to the store.

Video tape from inside Ultra Foods in Highland showed
Santana's mother, father and sister but not him.
Santana told jurors he was napping in the car.

Video footage of the car in the parking lot showed the
windows rolled up. Deputy Prosecutor Jamise Perkins
said the temperature just before 8 p.m. that evening
was recorded in Gary at 91 degrees.

Santana answered that he was in Highland not Gary.

Ortiz identified Santana as the person he saw creep up
to Swisher and shoot him. Ortiz at first denied seeing
the shooting. He did not identify Santana to police
until after he was arrested for the shooting at
Santana's house days after Swisher was killed.

Defense Attorney Carl Jones told jurors in closing
arguments that no DNA or other scientific evidenced
linked Santana to the crime.

Before Santana took the stand Friday, a juror asked to
be released from duty. Lake Criminal Court Magistrate
Natalie Bokota dismissed the juror and found an
alternate after the juror claimed to be followed home
from court Thursday by Santana's cousin.