A man was found guilty of knocking out his girlfriend's tooth, fatally injuring her months later, and setting her car on fire with her in it in 2018 in Gary.
Hugh Scott Jr., who is 37, decided to testify during his trial before Lake Criminal Court. He had been charged with fatal injury, aggravated battery, battery resulting in serious bodily injury and arson.
The trial was four days and the jury took about 6 hours to come to their decision. They found him guilty on all counts.
He could face 45 to 65 years on the fatal injury count.
Scott was accused of punching 39-year-old Davita Ward on March 22, 2018, and fatally injuring her June 16, 2018. Ward's remains were found "burned beyond recognition" on June 17, 2018. They were found in the backseat of her car.
A forensic pathologist testified that Ward was alive while she was In the car while it was burning. They also said that she had a fatal gunshot wound to the top of her head.
The jury heard testimony and evidence about several domestic disputes that happened in the relationship.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Dafoe said in her closing arguments that social media messages between Ward and Scott showed they had a volatile dating relationship.
Ward visited a dentist for a root canal in March 2018. When she returned for the second part of the procedure, she told the staff that her temporary tooth had been knocked out by an "abusive boyfriend" who punched her in the face.
Social Media messages showed that Ward
confronted Scott about the abuse, and he apologized and promised that it wouldn't ever happen again.
Days before Ward was fatally injured the messages showed Scott was losing his temper because Ward wouldn't meet up with him.
Scott had accused Ward of cheating on him. He gave her an ultimatum by threatening to end their relationship. Later, he showed up at her home despite her messages telling him not to be there.
Scott wouldn't stop messaging Ward when he knew she was at work, but the messages stopped after Ward went missing, the deputy prosecutor said.
"He knew where she was," Dafoe said. "He solidified the breakup."
Dafoe said that the evidence clearly showed that Scott likely thought he had fatally injured Ward. He put her in the backseat of her car and drove her to an abandoned area.
The prosecutor accused Scott of pouring gasoline in the vehicle. He panicked when he noticed that Ward woke up after he started the fire. Scott likely burned his legs when he moved closer to the car to fatally shoot Ward and his pants caught on fire, she said.
Jurors watched a video of the detectives' interview with Scott. He claimed that he was burned as a result of a mistake with a grill, lighter fluid and fireworks. He couldn't remember the exact date he was burned.
Dafoe showed the jury a picture of Scott legs that didn't appear to be burned. It was taken the day before Ward's homicide. He decided to seek medical treatment for the burns days after the homicide.
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