Jared T. Robbins -- the 24-year-old held in the Putnam County Jail for more than two years since the Aug. 21, 2010 shooting death of Donald E. Lowe III, 28, Martinsville -- agreed last month to a plea agreement that had been expected to result in a 25-year prison sentence.
However, on Friday afternoon, Putnam Superior Court Judge Charles "Denny" Bridges initially rejected the plea agreement after listening to the victim's stepfather, Gregory Combs of Cloverdale, make an impact statement during the sentencing hearing for Robbins.
"I am not willing to accept this plea as it's written," Bridges said.
However, Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter and defense attorney Luther T. Garcia of Indianapolis quickly suggested the plea agreement was fair for both sides.
Bookwalter said the 2010 situation that turned deadly amounted to a "jailhouse reunion with alcohol and guns."
"There are no angels in this case," he added, asking Bridges to reconsider and accept the plea bargain as "a fair and reasonable" resolution to the case.
Judge Bridges, who moments earlier had heard Combs argue the sentence would likely only see Robbins serve "as little as eight years," decided instead to take the plea agreement back under advisement.
The judge set a new hearing for 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 2 to announce his decision.
"Let me think on it a couple days," Judge Bridges said. "I don't like to make a snap judgment in a life-altering situation. Mr. Robbins, what I'm going to do is have you brought up again next Friday, and we'll finish this then."
After court, Bridges said that with good-time credit, Robbins could serve as little as 11 years of the 30-year imposed, 25-years executed sentence agreed upon by the two parties.
During his comments, Combs felt that was far too short a sentence for taking his stepson's life and robbing a 12-year-old girl of her father for the rest of her life.
"Is this truly justice?" Combs asked. "Especially for a man (Robbins) with already five felony convictions?"
The plea agreement, as originally filed Sept. 27 in Superior Court, states that in return for Robbins' pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter (a Class A felony), the state agrees to dismiss a petition to revoke probation and a habitual offender enhancement it had filed against the defendant.
In court last month, Prosecutor Bookwalter read from the agreement, asking Robbins if on Aug. 21, 2010 he "did knowingly kill another human being."
Robbins offered only a simple "yes" answer.
The agreement also states that Robbins cannot petition the court for any modification or reduction of his sentence once it is imposed.
On Aug. 21, 2010, as Robbins and a relative allegedly tangled with the victim Lowe in a physical confrontation outside a Burma Road residence, the defendant had only been out of jail since July.
The fatal shooting occurred, witnesses said, after Lowe released Robbins from a headlock, apparently ending the fight. But Robbins reportedly went to his vehicle and retrieved a handgun. He returned to fire five to seven rounds at Lowe with at least two bullets striking the victim in the chest and one in the leg.
Robbins then reportedly fled the scene. Within an hour, he was apprehended near the Putnam-Hendricks county line on Interstate 70.
Voluntary man-slaughter is considered an intentional killing in which the offender had no prior intent to kill, such as a killing that occurs in the heat of passion.