16-year-old sentenced to 63 years in prison for 2018 murder


ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – A 16-year-old has been sentenced to 63 years in prison following a conviction for a murder he committed when he was 13.

Alphonso L. James III of South Bend was sentenced to 63 years in prison following his conviction for the 2018 murder of Jaren Minies of Elkhart when James was just 13 years of age, the press release said. James had been accused of shooting Minies multiple times while trying to rob him in the back of a car on Sept. 12, 2018.

During the trial, Prosecuting Attorney Vicki Elaine Becker relied heavily on eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence that demonstrated James’s lack of concern for numerous people in the area, including young children.

One witness described how he heard his residence back door slam and went to see what was going on. That witness discovered James inside the back entryway and demanded he leave, the press release said. Minutes later, the witness encountered James in his home again after breaking in the basement window, brandishing a handgun. The witness gained control of the gun and James fled at that time.

During his trial, Judge Michael Christofeno identified the multiple attempts at rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system that James had been offered after his prior adjudications in St. Joseph County. Judge Chrostofeno also noted multiple pending cases that still needed to be resolved.

In justifying the aggravated sentence for James, Prosecuting Becker argued that James’s attitude and behaviors were far beyond that which could be rehabilitated safely in the community, the press release said. She pointed out his history in St. Joseph County as well as his adjudication for a serious felony Aggravated Assault and Gang Assault he committed in New York while on the run from his murder case in Elkhart County.

“While Prosecutor Becker is deeply troubled by having to send such a young child to prison, the level of depraved instinct, attitudes, and beliefs demonstrated by James in his short life left few options,” the press release said.

At the age of 4, James’s father was murdered during a drug deal in Elkhart, Indiana. Prosecutor Becker also prosecuted and convicted the individuals responsible for that offense. During James’ sentencing hearing, she expressed this is the first time in her career she has seen a victim’s child follow in the footsteps of offenders like those who killed his father. Rather, it has been more common these survivors find ways to overcome the trauma and become very successful members of our community.

Shortly before the judge imposed his sentence, Becker argued that, “there is no just no way to ensure the safety of the public with any type of local or alternative rehabilitative efforts.”

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