The Knox man convicted last month of murdering his estranged wife, kidnapping an employee from Mark Bailey’s Discount Center and carjacking an English Lake couple last June will learn his fate today. Gary Chavez is due in Starke Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing this morning. A jury of eight men and four women returned guilty verdicts after about 90 minutes of deliberations. Defense attorney David Welter argued unsuccessfully for a conviction of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Kimberly Chavez of Portage and of auto theft instead of carjacking.
Chavez was the lone witness for the defense at his trial. He claims to have no recollection of beating Kim to death on June 6, 2014 at his rural California Township home. Detectives from the Starke County Sheriff’s Office found her body wrapped in a grill cover next to the house. Evidence introduced during the trial indicates Chavez sent her text messages that morning indicating he wasn’t feeling well and one that said he thought he was dying. That prompted Kim to leave work and drive to Knox to check on him. Chavez also claims to have no memory of sending the messages.
After realizing what he had done, Chavez drove to Mark Bailey’s Discount Center and commandeered employee Bryant Wagner and his car. Wagner testified Chavez confessed to killing his wife and said he was on the run. Wagner’s car was almost out of gas, which is why Chavez switched vehicles in English Lake. The Jeep Grand Cherokee he stole from Rick Boisvert and Julie Wilson was having mechanical problems and broke down between Hebron and Kouts on State Road 8. That’s where authorities say Chavez stole a pickup truck from two men. He was driving the truck when police in Lake County used stop sticks to disable his vehicle on Interstate 65 in Crown Point. Chavez shot himself in the face as officers were approaching. He spent more than two months in a Chicagoland area hospital last summer before being released to the custody of the Starke County Sheriff and has been in jail since.