A part-time Gary, Ind., construction worker and father of three children has been charged with the murder of a Griffith woman whose bloodied, badly beaten and partially-clothed body was found behind an abandoned elementary school Saturday.
Robert Lewis III, 38, was seen at 2 a.m. Saturday at Pepe's Mexican restaurant on Ridge Road in Griffith leaving in a car with Jennifer Kocsis, 37, a respite care worker for the disabled and a former music teacher, police say.
Kocsis stopped at the restaurant about an hour earlier to get in one last karaoke song for the night before closing time. Before leaving Pepe's, she told the karaoke deejay she intended to give a ride home to Lewis, who told her he lived near her.
Customers say Lewis had just met Kocsis that night and was not a regular at Pepe's.
Gary police said surveillance video from Pepe's proved to be instrumental to their case, and that customers and employees identified Lewis in a photo line-up.
Authorities took Lewis into custody on Tuesday, but they say it came with some measure of difficulty.
Police said when they went to Lewis's home to try and question him about Kocsis, he led them on a high-speed chase that reached a speed of 100 mph through residential neighborhoods and side streets of Gary.
He gave up after several minutes, they said, and surrendered to authorities without anyone getting hurt. During a subsequent search of his home, police said they found blood in his bedroom. They suspect it to be Kocsis'.
The break in this case comes on the very day family and friends gather at Burdan Funeral Home in Cedar Lake, Ind., for the visitation and funeral service of a woman remembered as loving, carefree, and unfailingly trusting of others.
"It's a tough day," said Ron Sutton, Kocsis' friend of 15 years, who reacted with some measure of satisfaction after hearing that Lewis had been charged with the her murder.
Police say Sutton, who is the longtime karaoke deejay at Pepe's, may have been the last person to see Kocsis alive other than her killer.
"It does not bring Jennifer back. It doesn't change that night. But at least there's some comfort knowing this beast is gone and he's not going to do this to another girl again," he said.
Lewis is currently in custody at the Lake County Indiana Jail.