Case be­gins against 2nd man in 1980 cop killing

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Becky Ja­cobs Post-Tri­bune re­ja­[email protected]

Pros­e­cu­tors are work­ing on a sec­ond case in the killing of an off-duty Ham­mond po­lice of­fi­cer nearly 40 years ago, this time against a man they said went in the ho­tel where the of­fi­cer was shot.

Pierre Catlett, 68, made his for­mal ap­pear­ance Wednes­day morn­ing in Lake Su­pe­rior Court on a mur­der charge from the Nov. 14, 1980, shoot­ing of Lawrence Pu­ca­lik, who was work­ing a side se­cu­rity job at Hol­i­day Inn off Cline Av­enue in Ham­mond.

In Au­gust, a jury found James Hill, who pros­e­cu­tors said was the get­away driver, guilty of mur­der in per­pet­u­a­tion of rob­bery and at­tempted rob­bery. Hill, 55, was sen­tenced in Oc­to­ber to 47 years in pri­son.

Catlett was brought to Lake County to face charges in Pu­ca­lik’s death af­ter he was re­leased in Au­gust from a lengthy pri­son sen­tence in Illi­nois.

Catlett’s case was set in mo­tion Wednes­day in the same courtroom, with the same judge and with the same pros­e­cu­tors as Hill faced. Michael Solan, a re­tired Ham­mond de­tec­tive who was a lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the case, was in the courtroom again, as he was through­out Hill’s trial.

Catlett pleaded not guilty Wednes­day and is sched­uled to ap­pear in court again Jan. 2. Judge Sal­vador Vasquez set a trial date for Feb. 11.

Given the na­ture of the case, Catlett’s at­tor­ney, Robert Lee Lewis said, “we can’t go to trial in Fe­bru­ary.” Vasquez said the trial date is “not set in stone,” and they would reeval­u­ate in Jan­uary.

Catlett and Hill were two of three de­fen­dants, along with Larry Mayes, 69, when the case first was charged in 2012 and recharged in 2016. Mayes was found in­com­pe­tent to stand trial af­ter he had a stroke, at­tor­neys said.

On Nov. 14, 1980, Pu­ca­lik was work­ing at Hol­i­day Inn when two men came in with hand­guns, de­mand­ing money from the reg­is­ter, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Pu­ca­lik walked into the lobby, and “as he at­tempted to ac­cess his firearm, the of­fi­cer was shot by one of the sus­pects,” ac­cord­ing to court records.

At Hill’s trial, pros­e­cu­tors said that Catlett and Mayes were the ones who went with guns into the Hol­i­day Inn, while Hill waited out­side in the get­away car.

More than 30 years passed be­tween the shoot­ing and charges first be­ing filed. In that time, the only eye­wit­ness to the shoot­ing, the ho­tel clerk, died, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Hill wanted to call his great­grand­mother and great-un­cle as al­ibi wit­nesses to tes­tify that he was at home with them as a high school stu­dent when the crime oc­curred, ac­cord­ing to court records. But those rel­a­tives died in 1996 and 2008, re­spec­tively, said Scott King, Hill’s at­tor­ney.

At the time of the shoot­ing, Hill was 17 years old, while Mayes and Catlett were in their 30s.

Hill main­tained his in­no­cence through­out his trial and at sen­tenc­ing. King ar­gued that civil cases were mo­ti­va­tion for fil­ing the charges against Hill in Pu­ca­lik’s death.

In 1982, Hill was con­victed of kid­nap­ping and rap­ing a Ham­mond woman. He spent years in pri­son be­fore his con­vic­tion was set aside in 2009. The fol­low­ing year, he filed a law­suit against the city of Ham­mond and Solan. That case is on­go­ing.

Mayes, who also was Hill’s code­fen­dant in that case, also had his con­vic­tion set aside. Mayes filed a sim­i­lar civil suit and re­ceived $4.5 mil­lion.

Hill’s at­tor­neys in­di­cated at sen­tenc­ing that he would ap­peal his crim­i­nal con­vic­tion.


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