A Gary man was sentenced to four years in prison Monday after a plea deal for opening fire outside a gas station. Two stray bullets hit and killed a woman sitting in a car.
James Guyton, 23, pleaded guilty Dec. 11 to reckless homicide, a Level 5 felony, in the May 3, 2021, death of Jaelyn L. Williams, 21, of Gary. He was initially charged with murder.
Williams’ boyfriend told police he entered the gas station on the 3100 block of W. 15th Ave. early in the afternoon when Guyton, driving a Chevrolet Malibu, which had stopped, asked him why he was looking at his car.
The man said he was just looking in that direction and went to pay for gas. When the man got out, Guyton, sitting in the Malibu, opened fire on him, according to the charges. Williams, the mother of his child, sat in her black Chevrolet Impala and was hit twice in the head. The boyfriend returned to the gas station and asked them to call 911.
Judge Salvador Vasquez told Guyton on Monday that he didn’t understand why he did what he did, before ultimately accepting the plea deal.
“To me it looks like murder,” he said.
At the start of the hearing, Assistant Prosecutor Jovanni Miramontes said he was unable to reach Williams’ family or their attorney to inform them of the plea. He had been in contact with his mother earlier in the case, he said.
Guyton’s attorney, Adrian Guzman, said Guyton was “sorry” and “remorseful” for Williams’ death. He asked for four years – including two in prison and two on probation.
Miramontes said Williams was fatally shot in the face twice because her boyfriend, passing by, allegedly “looked at (Guyton’s) car.”
Even though Guyton had not technically been convicted of a crime, his criminal record and subsequent arrests showed a “pattern” of “violence” and “carrying a weapon when he is not supposed to,” a declared the prosecutor.
As an adult, Guyton had two pending cases at the time of the shooting – for carrying a gun without a license, then a lower-level felony drug charge, as well as a new misdemeanor gun possession charge fist after Williams’ death.
Miramontes asked for five years in prison.
Guyton spoke briefly, clarifying that he had not been convicted of certain gun possession charges.
“I think my lawyer said everything,” he said, apologizing to the court.
Lake County has seen “so many murders at gas stations,” Vasquez said, where people walked past each other with guns. ” I do not know why. Maybe I never will.
Almost every time, the people involved were “outsiders.”
The judge noted that Guyton had stated in his current investigation report that he accepted the plea because he wanted to return home to his children.
“A model doesn’t go to jail,” he said. “A model doesn’t kill people.”
Williams was unresponsive at the scene. She was pronounced dead around 1:30 p.m. at Methodist Hospital. The cause of his death was a “massive brain injury” caused by two gunshots, according to the Lake County coroner’s office.
Police found several 9mm bullet casings in the parking lot. Security footage appeared to show the boyfriend dodging gunshots. Guyton continued shooting as he drove out of the parking lot onto Chase Street, according to the charges.
Guyton was at the gas station for only three minutes, from 12:42 p.m. to 12:45 p.m., according to the documents.
A witness told police that Guyton said he opened fire at a gas station when another man shot him, but claimed he wasn’t sure who killed Williams , according to the charges. He then admitted to shooting her even though the witness said police would be watching security cameras.
Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.chicagotribune.com