INDIANAPOLIS-- The family of a murdered mother of two is devastated after a judge accepted a plea agreement Tuesday which will allow the killer to go to prison for 17 years.
Candace Looper pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter for killing Martha Cronkhite on July 13, 2015.
Looper admitted in court Tuesday to killing Cronkhite over a suspected relationship with Stephen Jones, who was also charged with Cronkhite’s murder.
Cronkhite’s sisters begged Judge Sheila Carlisle to reject the plea agreement reached between prosecutors and Looper, but the judge accepted the deal.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Judge Carlisle told the family. “No matter what occurs, it won’t take away the pain and grief.”
Prosecutors told the judge the plea agreement was in the best interest of the community.
“It’s not enough time,” said Lori Dunn, sister of Martha Cronkhite. “My sister was only 33 or 34, and now Candace can get out and breathe, and have a life, where our sister doesn’t.”
“I don’t feel like it’s long enough for her to be able to get out and reunite with her family, and we will never have our sister again,” said Lisa Cronkhite, Martha’s other sister. “Prosecutors as well as the judge need to stop allowing plea deals to continue to ruin this city.’
Stephen Jones reached a plea agreement in 2017 with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal, and the murder charge was dismissed.
Jones’ earliest release date from state prison is October 24, 2022.
Call 6 Investigates contacted Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry’s office, and they released a statement.
“Candace Looper admitted responsibility for the death of Martha Cronkhite by pleading guilty today to Voluntary Manslaughter, which we believed was an appropriate resolution under the circumstances of this case. Pursuant to the plea agreement, she was ordered to serve a 30-year sentence with 17 years served in the Indiana Department of Correction. Also convicted in the case was Stephen Jones who pleaded guilty to Assisting a Criminal for his role. This resolution ensured that the individuals involved were held responsible for their roles in Ms. Cronkhite’s death.”
Numbers obtained by Call 6 Investigates show 3 percent of major felony cases make it to a jury trial in Marion County.
Call 6 Investigates sat down with Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry last year to discuss the plea agreement and trial numbers.
Prosecutors consider a slew of factors when deciding whether to take a case to trial including whether witnesses and victims could be traumatized by testimony and evidence presented at trial, and how likely they could get an entire jury to convict the suspect.
“We have to look at what is realistic,” said Curry. “You learn there’s no such thing as a slam dunk case. Taking cases to trial, we're going to lose some, it's just a fact of life."
Martha Cronkhite’s mother is now caring for the children, who are now 10 and 13 years old.
“I'm very disappointed in the judicial system,” said Dunn. “I feel they let us down.”
Looper and her family declined to comment.
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