The fate of a Knox man accused of killing his estranged wife, kidnapping an employee from Mark Bailey’s Discount Center and stealing another vehicle in English Lake will soon be in the hands of a jury. Closing arguments are anticipated later today in the trial of Gary Chavez.
He was the lone witness for the defense and offered an often emotional account of his relationship with victim Kimberly Chavez. He said he felt “totally different” from the first time he went out with her and described their marriage as happy, affectionate and loving. Chavez admitted they argued about her son and some about money toward the end of their relationship. According to him they separated for 35 days about a decade into their marriage but reconciled and all was forgiven.
In 2008 Chavez testified they had another argument over Kim’s son that turned physical. They were living in Portage at the time. A report was filed with the Portage Police Department, but charges were dropped. “If we argued at all, I couldn’t stay mad,” Chavez said.
He said Kimberly moved out in January of 2012 but they remained in contact and he continued to support her financially. He said he moved to Starke County after she left because he would see her around Portage. Chavez said he changed his cell phone number and didn’t give Kimberly his address, but she still managed to track him down. During that time he added work was slow in his chosen vocation as a union cement mason, so he filled his free time clearing trees from his property and walking.
Eventually Chavez says they started seeing each other again and fell into a routine of regular contact via text messages and telephone calls. He also asked her sister to help him file his weekly unemployment claims since by his own admission he is not computer literate.
Previous testimony indicates Gary and Kimbery Chavez exchanged several text messages the day she died and spoke on the telephone. Gary claims he doesn’t recall any of that and said he was surprised when she showed up at his house. Telephone records indicate he sent her a text saying he was dying and did not respond to her message asking if he was OK, which apparently prompted her to drive to Knox and check on him. He was outside when she pulled up. Gary testified they went into his house, smoked a joint and sat down to talk, but something was different. He testified he asked about rumors of her infidelity, and she admitted to cheating on him. He said the last thing he remembers is her standing up and giving him a smirk or smile. From there he said he fell to his knees and felt like someone put a white piece of paper over his face.
Chavez said his next recollection was of standing over Kim, holding a piece of wood and wondering what had happened. He claims not to remember moving her body but does recall wrapping her in a grill cover.
Chavez said he grabbed his .375 an ammunition from a safe in his bedroom, got into his truck and left. His intention was to drive to Portage to Lake Michigan and shoot himself. While driving past Mark Bailey’s Discount Center on State Road 10 he decided to change vehicles in case the police had a description of his truck. That’s when Chavez said he saw Bryant Wagner walking toward his car, ordered him into the passenger seat and took it. As the two drove toward English Lake, Chavez recalls “rambling and blurting things out” but doesn’t remember what he said. He also claimed his gun was in his lap and not in his hand while he was driving. Despite his memory lapses, he admits he was able to remember telephone numbers of a friend and family members he asked Wagner to call for him.
Wagner’s car was running out of gas, so Chavez set about looking for another vehicle. While driving north through English Lake he saw Rick Boisvert pull into his driveway in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Chavez pulled in behind him, walked over and asked for the keys. From there he took off toward Portage, or so he thought.
The Jeep broke down on State Road 8 near Hebron, which is where Chavez is accused of stealing a third vehicle. A Hebron Police Officer spotted him a few minutes later and engaged in high-speed pursuit through Porter and Lake Counties before another officer used stop sticks to disable the truck. Chavez testified he pulled out his gun, said a prayer to God for forgiveness, said a prayer for his wife, put the weapon in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. The gun didn’t fire the first time, according to Chavez. He said he pulled it out, cocked it, put it under his chin and fired.
Chavez has had numerous surgeries and is partially paralyzed as a result of the self-inflicted gunshot. He only has half a tongue and said he refuses to look in the mirror because he doesn’t know who the person is he sees.