VALPARAISO, Ind. (CBS) — A Northwest Indiana man charged with running over a woman, dragging her for a mile and killing her says the passenger in his car was really responsible.
James Lohman III, 49, is charged with running over Shari Lynn Jania, 45, in Burns Harbor, Ind., this past Saturday. But he claims the passenger stretched his foot over to commandeer the accelerator.
“En route to the Portage Police Department, Lohman stated, with no prompting from this officer, that he would cooperate fully and in any way that he could. Lohman went on to say that (the) front seat passenger put his leg over to the driver’s side and placed his foot over Lohman’s foot and pushed on the gas pedal,” according to court records.
“Lohman stated that he would sign papers stating this, but he would need protection from the passenger, who he advised was a high-ranking gang member,” documents state.
Lohman remains the only one charged in the Saturday killing of Jania at the Shift Change bar parking lot on U.S. 20 in Burns Harbor.
“I don’t anticipate any other charges in this matter,” said Porter County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost.
One witness told police that Jania, who’d been behind the car yelling out license plate numbers to the bartender, got out of the way when the tan Cougar went into reverse, then ended up in front and to the left of the vehicle.
The witness said Lohman cut the wheel sharply to the left and floored it.
After the Cougar ran over Jania, it stopped for 10-15 seconds while someone opened the driver’s door, then spun its wheels and took off while people yelled that Jania was under it.
Lohman had his initial hearing on Wednesday and faces up to 20 years in prison on the highest felony, Class B felony leaving the scene of an accident.
He faces two to eight years in prison on each of two Class C felonies, reckless homicide and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated casing the death of another person.
Porter County, Ind., Superior Judge Roger Bradford set bail bond at $250,000 and assigned Lohman an assistant public defender, although Lohman said he wanted to contact family members.
“I can’t get to my cell phone to see more numbers to see if my family could help. If I could get my cell phone, which is here in the jail, I could call more family members and see if they would help,” Lohman said.
Lohman tested at a .106 blood alcohol level on Saturday.
The Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.