GARY, Ind. (STMW) — Lake County Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. sentenced a Gary man to 90 years in prison for murder and being an habitual offender.

“You killed a guy for no reason whatsoever,” Stefaniak said to Kevin Cortez Brown, 34, who was convicted Nov. 2 of the murder of Vernale Givens, 28.

The judge, who heard emotional testimony from Givens’ father and widow, said the jury rejected Brown’s claim that he acted in self-defense. The judge noted that Brown went to Givens’ tire business on May 22, 2010, at the Steel City Truck Stop at Ripley Street and Melton Road in Gary, and murdered him.

“You’re trying to convince yourself that this was justified and it was completely senseless,” Stefaniak said, minutes after the anguished testimony of Stanford Givens, the victim’s father, who told Brown: “You took my heart.”

Givens described a respectful, hard-working son who was not streetwise and never had been in trouble. Like Givens’ widow, Sheniki Givens, the victim’s father pleaded with Brown for a reason for the senseless murder.

Sheniki Givens said she can still hear the piercing screams of the couple’s 7-year-old when given the crushing news that her father had been killed, and the question she can’t answer when her 4-year-old asks why her dad wasn’t at her birthday party. “In my eyes, you are a man without a soul,” Sheniki Givens said.

Deputy prosecutor Monica Rogina argued for a 60-year sentence on the murder charge, citing Brown’s criminal history and the fact he used a gun for which he had no permit and drove car stolen from the Ford Motor Co. lot where Brown’s mother worked.

Brown, who represented himself at his trial, told the judge the murder of Givens, a man he said he barely knew, was a poor decision he made after he and his wife separated and he began dealing marijuana “to ride out the recession.” Brown told police that Givens had been following him after Brown provided evidence against a relative of Givens in a gun case years earlier.

Stefaniak noted Brown’s days as a confidential informant were in the distant past. “You struggle so hard to try to convince yourself that you’re this good person and family man when in reality you’re a thug. You’re a stone-cold thug,” the judge said.

Stefaniak imposed 60 years for murder and 30 years for the habitual offender sentencing enhancement.

Brown said he will appeal.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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