Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied


 = BLOG IT  => [Category:  Officer Down!]

							     By:  G. David Yaros


ENDURING THE TRAGEDY -- Comments from the victim's family
THE FINAL CHAPTER:  A 27 Year Crime Odyssey

The biggest tragedy with respect to what follows is:  IT IS A TRUE STORY!  Names have NOT been changed to protect the innocent.  Accounts of the events are taken from various sources, including the press and case reporters.

August 11, 1981, was a typical day.  The country was in the midst of the summer doldrums.  Yours truly was backpacking in the Cascades of Washington state.  The temperature was in the high 90's, and the going was tough, very tough.  However, the stress I was willingly inflicting upon myself waxed mighty thin when contrasted with what family members were enduring in our hometown, the "Steel City" of Gary, Indiana.  There, the temperature on the southern shore of Lake Michigan was relatively comfortable; being only in the high 70's.  As the sun was reaching its zenith, events were piquing, the impact of which is still felt as you read.

George Yaros, age 57, was working the day shift on Tuesday, August 11.  He came home to lunch with his wife Ann, which was his usual routine.  He had been following this routine for 29 + years.  Time with his wife was a treasured and rare commodity, for George Yaros was working two (2) jobs, as he did most of his adult life.  Consequently, his "work day" ended quite late.  By now he had become accustomed to these demands on his time and energies.  Besides, he only had a few more months to go, and he would retire from both jobs.  Then he could begin enjoying life.  On leaving to return to work, he grabbed an apple, gave Ann a kiss and was smiling.

Twenty-seven year old Rufus Averhart was also out and about that day.  He had joined up with his acquaintances, Ralph Hutson and David North.  Like George Yaros, Averhart grabbed something on his way out.  It was not an apple ... .

Yaros and Averhart were to meet on Tuesday, 11 August 1981, shortly after noon.  The meeting would be brief.  The effects flowing from this meeting shall run into the 21st century and have impacted far more than the immediate participants.  The details surrounding that meeting are best recounted by the local newspapers; The Gary Post-Tribune, Hammond Times and Fort Wayne Journal and others:

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Gary Cop Killed, 3 Held

101st Airborne Patch   Gary P.D. Shoulder Patch   Gary Police Badge   Goerge Yaros Photo

Long-time officer shot in holdup

By H. J. Jackson, Post-Tribune Staff Reporter
Gary (8/12/81)
- "This is the real thing, they're shooting at me," Lt. George Yaros told a radio dispatcher Tuesday afternoon. Those were the last words he spoke into the radio.  Yaros, 57, was fatally wounded at 12:05 p.m. by robbers leaving the Gary National Bank Branch at 3680 Broadway.  He was pronounced dead at 1:20 p.m. in the St. Mary Medical Center emergency room of gunshot wounds to the chest, stomach and side.

Police arrested three men, Rufus Averhart, 27 of 1341 Taft St.; Ralph D. Hutson, 32 of 1902 W. 5th Ave, and David North, 30 who gave an address of 1707 Garfield St.  They wouldn't say whether a fourth suspect was being sought.  North was in Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus with a gunshot wound to one of his legs.  Hutson, who suffered a wound to the left forearm and Averhart were in city jail pending arraignment.  Police said they are unable to determine whether the men were shot by Yaros or during the police chase.  The men reportedly took Yaros' gun during the shootout, police say.

The FBI wouldn't say how much money was taken in the robbery.  However, Gary Police did say all the cash was recovered.

A 29-year veteran of the Gary Police Department, Yaros was planning to retire in a few months. ( On retiring Yaros had arranged to assume a security position at the very bank to which he responded this day. - GDY)

Police sources gave this account of the incident:

At noon, three men wearing plastic masks entered the bank, disarmed a guard and began robbing teller's drawers.  One man carried a shotgun and two carried pistols.  A silent alarm alerted police and the radio room dispatched the call.

Yaros, driving south on Broadway, radioed that he would check it out. ( This particular institution had been experiencing a rash false/malfunctioning alarms in the last month. - GDY)  Less than a minute later, his last broadcast rang over the air.

After the lieutenant reached the scene, he positioned himself behind the trunk of his blue and white police car.  The robbers met Yaros with a hail of gunfire.  Two bullets from a .357-caliber Magnum handgun apparently ripped through the trunk of the police car and struck Yaros in the chest.  Police said an autopsy would show if the robbers shot Yaros again after he fell.  Most of the windows were shot out of the lieutenant's car.

Yaros returned fire with his five-shot, snub-nose revolver, but police would not say how many shots he got off.  The robbers drove away in what later was found to be a car stolen from Lake Station.

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Patrolman Phillip Pastoret, 44, a traffic policeman, arrived at the bank as the robbers left, and began chasing their car.  The robbers fired several shots at Pastoret's car, but he wasn't hit.  He returned their fire during the pursuit, which police said exceeded 80 mph.

The robbers led police west on 36th Avenue to Grant Street and north on Grant Street to 25th Avenue. At 25th, the robbers tried to leave the car and bean shooting at Pastoret again. He again returned their fire.

The men got back in the car and drove east on 25th Avenue.  The robbers car turned north on Filmore Street, hit a parked car and slowed down.  Pastoret followed closely, then rammed the robbers' car at 23rd and Filmore, forcing them into a yard on the west side of the street.

Although he was out of bullets, Pastoret ran to the suspects' car, grabbed the driver and wrestled him to the ground.  The driver was later identified as Hutson.  Averhart reportedly was crouched in the back seat, pointing a .357-caliber Magnum handgun at Pastoret, when Patrolman Ronald Flournoy, 29, the second policeman in the chase, pointed his gun through the car window. Averhart dropped the pistol on the floor of the car.

Yaros, a patrol commander, was en route from lunch when he checked on the robbery.  He worked a second job at Kaiser Refractories, in the industrial park near 15th Avenue and King Drive, from which he was due to retire simultaneously with 30 years service from the police department and have two pensions.  Although he could have retired at 20 years, with half of a patrolman's base pay, he would get 74 percent of a patrolman's base pay by retiring at 30 years.

North and Hutson were arrested in Gary last January on suspicion of carrying handguns with no legal permits and possession of illegal narcotics.  They were arrested while driving a stolen car, police reported. Police didn't say whether they were tried on the earlier charges.

[Hammond Times]
By: Mark Potok, Times Staff Writer
GARY (8/12/81)
- . . . .Arriving at the bank, police officer Phillip Pastoret saw the suspects jump into a late-model car and sped after them, leading a chase that involved at least 15 police cars and a helicopter.

In the 2500 block of Lincoln, the getaway car pulled over momentarily and one of the suspects leaped out and ran, tearing off an identifying jacket and dropping a weapon as he fled, Roberson said.  He was captured by other police officers who converged on the area within minutes.

Meanwhile a gun battle raged between Pastoret and the suspects as the two cars careened down streets in the city's near west side.

"Sometimes the car was so close he (Pastoret) could reach out and touch their car and they were shooting back and forth at each other," Roberson said.  "When he got to 22nd (and Filmore streets) he realized he was out of bullets and he didn't have time to reload."

And so, Roberson recounted, Pastoret dropped back, pulled in behind the suspects' car, and suddenly accelerated smashing the rear of the getaway vehicle and driving it head-on into a tree at the side of the road.

"Now he (Pastoret) jumps out the car, he runs over to the driver's side," Roberson said.  "He yells to the other guy, 'Don't move!' and starts struggling with the driver."  Neither man was armed with a loaded weapon, but unknown to Pastoret, the suspect riding in the passenger seat got out, walked behind the officer and "stuck a gun in his back."

At that moment, according to Roberson, police officer Ronald Flournoy pulled up, jumped out of his squad car and ran up to Pastoret and the two suspects -- literally shoving his own weapon into the back of the armed suspect and subduing both men.
. . . .

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Yaros due to retire in 6 months

By H. J. Jackson, Post-Tribune Staff Reporter
Gary (8/12/81)
- Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people in blue uniforms walked around the Gary Police Station in a daze, every eye red and puffy.  Their sorrow followed confirmation of the news that Lt. George Yaros, 57, died under a hail of bullets after he interrupted a bank robbery at 37th and Broadway.

He was the ninth Gary policeman to die in the line of duty in the 75-year history of the city.  Yaros joined the Police Department Feb. 16, 1952.  He had a second job as a security guard at Kaiser Refractories, a cement manufacturing company in the industrial park at 1225 King Drive.  Due to retire from there in about six months, he planned to retire simultaneously from the Gary Police Department and have two pensions ( and go to work at the very bank where he met his untimely demise. - GDY).  He and his widow, Ann Yaros, were parents of three children.  She was under a doctor's care after the slaying.

"I don't know what his hobbies were; what he did when he wasn't here.  He always worked two jobs and all he ever talked about was his kids," said Capt. Adrian Parks, commander of technical services and a longtime friend.  "He didn't take the captain promotion exam because he wanted to stay in the streets."  "He was a quiet guy who never complained," said another officer.  "He was a lieutenant and he answered the call like a patrolman," said Sgt. Loy Roberson, police public information officer.  "That's the kind of guy he was."

Former Gary Police Chief Conway C. Mullins, when he heard the news of Yaros' death, choked up and was unable to comment. "This is a tragedy for his wife, his family and the department and the people of the city," said Gary Police Chief Frederick P. Kowsky.  "The courage displayed by this officer was in the finest tradition of police service.  He gave 30 years of service to the people of this city.  And he gave his life in the performance of his duties as a police officer for the protection of all the citizens in the city of Gary.  It's a tragedy for everybody and no amount of prosecution or incarceration can ever balance the scales of justice."

Yaros led the life of a family man with virtually no blemishes.  "He liked his beer," one old friend said.  He was a World War II veteran, and he earned a Purple Heart as a paratrooper.  He was wounded in Belgium after parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. He had jumped behind the Nazi lines, and he spent three days trying to make his way to friendly lines.  (He was also a twice captured POW. - GDY)

During his police career, Yaros was commended several times by citizens' organizations.  The most outstanding honor came from the Gary Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, who chose him "Policeman for the Month" in 1970 for his work in rescuing three children and arresting their kidnapper.

Yaros eulogized as peace martyr

Merrillville 8/14/81 - Lt. George Yaros is a martyr who gave his life for "peace, loyalty and justice," the Rev. John Morales said Friday.

"The time for tears is never more obvious than when we take leave of a loved one," he said.  "Today then is a day for tears, a day for grieving."

Yaros, a 29-year veteran was shot Tuesday during a robbery at the Glen Park Branch of the Gary National Bank.  He died of multiple gunshot wounds in the chest, stomach and arm.

More than 500 police from Indiana and Illinois gathered early Friday under overcast skies at Pruzin Funeral Home, 6360 Broadway, before proceeding to St. Mark Church, 501 W. Ridge Road for the service.

Family and friends helped Yaros' grieving widow, Ann, as she entered and exited the church.  Mourners filled the church and others stood outside in the rain. Burial was at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville.

Special tribute set for slain policeman

By: Blaine Marz, Post-Tribune Columnist (9/30/81)- Another of those "days" for which this area is well-known (and through which its people have demonstrated time after time how much they care) is coming up.  It could well develop, despite sad overtones, into the biggest one-day event of its nature in the history of Northwest Indiana.

This one will benefit the family of George Yaros, slain Gary police lieutenant.  In a way it will also be a memorial to the man who survived rugged combat service as a paratrooper in World War II, but not crime and violence in Gary.

By all accounts, he was one of the best-liked and most respected men to ever wear a badge in the city, and professionally and personally a "Mr. Clean."

The "day" with a format like that of dozens of others in the past is set for Sunday, Oct. 11, in the Great Hall of St. Constantine & Helen Cathedral, 8000 Madison St., Merrillville.

Gary policeman Wally DeRose, spokesman for a group of police and civilian friends of the late officer planning the benefit, leaves little doubt the group is going all-out to make the day something meaningful to the Yaros family "and the memory of a man we all regarded so highly and were happy to call our friend."

The hours will be 1 to 8 p.m., with a buffet dinner from 2-5 p.m..  A cash bar will be open throughout the day and there will be continuous entertainment.  Two bands, "Scamp" and "Rainbow" have volunteered their services.  Others are expected to be added to the entertainment lineup, DeRose noted.

Tickets are $15.  They are available through the police department detective bureau, 944-6655, or by calling 738-1939 the number of a Merrillvile business place.

True to the usual format, there'll be mini-fund raisers within the major fund raiser.  A television set will be one of the many items (the number grows daily) involved in that phase of the activities.

Literally hundreds of area residents were shocked, saddened and outraged by the death of Yaros, and the circumstances surrounding it.  The "day" offers them the opportunity to demonstrate, if only in a small way, how much they care.

DeRose is joined by other Gary Police Department members Joe Matan, John Peters, Wayne Brown, William Arnold and Tom Sax, and former department member Keith Kemenich in planning the day and energetically working to make it an outstanding success.

They are encountering, said DeRose, " what can only be called generous, warm, public response."  Given the factors involved, that figures.

Lt. Yaros, 57, a 29-year veteran of the department was slain on duty when he was only six months from retirement.  He is survived by his wife, Ann, a son, Tim and two daughters, Jane Yaros and Barbara Gallimore.

Lt. Yaros did something good and decent for society every time he checked his shield, buckled up and went on duty.  Now it is our turn -- to do something good and decent for his family in his memory.

(What goes unsaid in the above article is, because Lt. Yaros did not retire from the police force, his wife received no pension benefits; despite his 29 + years of service and the fact he died "in the line of duty." - GDY)

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Round #1 - Trial

Prosecutor to seek death penalty in slaying of cop

Crown Point (8/12/81) - The Lake County prosecutor's office is preparing to file death penalty murder charges today against three men accused of killing a Gary policeman Tuesday during a bank robbery.

The death counts were to be filed in Lake Superior Court against Rufus Averhart, 27; Ralph D. Hutson, 32; and David North, 30, of Gary.

The three were to be charged with committing an armed robbery at the Gary National Bank branch at 3680 Broadway, Gary, Tuesday and fatally shooting Gary police Lt. George Yaros as they attempted to flee.

John McGrath, a trial supervisor for the prosecutor's office, said the office is seeking the death penalty on grounds they committed a murder in the perpetration of a robbery and on grounds the victim was a policeman acting in the line of duty.

McGrath said the charges will be placed before a grand jury Aug. 20 "so members of the community can affirm our decision that killing a police officer deserves the death penalty."

Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford said earlier today he would bring the case before a grand jury today.  McGrath said those plans changed later in the morning after he and Gary police investigators reviewed the evidence and decided they needed more reports and physical evidence before taking the case before the grand jury.

3 Indicted In Slaying of Officer

Crown Point (8/21/81) - A Lake County grand jury indicted three Gary men Thursday for the Aug. 11 murder of Gary Police Lt. George Yaros.  Four-count murder indictments were returned against Rufus Averhart, 27, Ralph D. Hutson, 32; and David North, 30. The multiple counts qualify the defendants for the death penalty.

Prior charges of four counts of murder and one count of robbery against each man were dismissed after the indictments were returned. Prosecutor Jack Crawford said he decided to bring the case before the grand jury to allow citizens to determine whether the death penalty should be sought.  "I'm pleased the grand jury agreed that the death penalty should be imposed in this killing," Crawford said.  "This office feels strongly that the facts of the case justify the maximum penalty."

Yaros, 57, was shot during a gun-fight with three men who had just robbed the Glen Park branch of the Gary National Bank, 3680 Broadway.  The 29-year police veteran had responded to a robbery call and encountered the robbers as they fled a rear exit of the bank.

Yaros died about an hour later at St. Mary Medical Center in Gary.  The men were caught shortly after the robbery following a wild, high-speed chase through Gary.  A squad car rammed the getaway car from behind, sending it into a tree.

Averhart pleaded innocent Tuesday to the earlier charges, but will have to be arraigned again in light of the indictments. Hutson and North were scheduled to enter pleas this week, but their arraignments were continued.

Hutson's attorney, Public Defender Willie Harris, filed a motion Thursday in Lake Criminal Court alleging that Hutson has insufficient comprehension to understand the charges against him.

[Hammond Times]

Suspect's Plea Not Expected

Crown Point (9/3/81) - A third man was not expected to plead today to charges he murdered Gary Police Lt. George Yaros during a bank robbery.

Lake Criminal Court Judge James Letsinger has ordered mental examinations for Ralph D. Hutson, 32. Reports on the examinations have not been filed by the two court appointed psychiatrists.  After examinations to determine if he is competent to stand trial, Hutson will be arraigned or sent to a mental hospital.

The two other men pleaded innocent to preliminary murder charges which were filed prior to the grand jury indictment and later to charges in a grand jury indictment which seeks the death penalty. T he preliminary charges were dismissed when the grand jury indictment was returned.  Rufus Averhart, 27, and David North, 29, both of Gary, pleaded innocent on the new charges and asked for jury trials.

Deputy Prosecutor John McGrath said the grand jury indictment was sought because the state is asking for the death penalty.  He said the prosecutor's staff wanted the "public to speak on the death penalty request for killing a police officer".

Yaros, 57, was killed in an exchange of gunfire when he responded to a bank robbery in progress Aug. 11 at Gary National Bank at 3680 Broadway.

North, who entered his plea Wednesday on the grand jury charge, also pleaded innocent to another robbery charge and asked for a jury trial.  Before the murder of Yaros, North had been arrested for the charge of the June 28, 1979 robbery of an employee of LCR Liquors in Gary.  Averhart served seven years in prison for the 1972 murder of a Gary man.  He was on parole at the time he is accused of killing Yaros.

[Hammond Times]

Murder Trial Site Picked

Crown Point (9/13/81) - The trial of three men accused of murdering a Gary policeman will be held in Allen County.  Lake Criminal Court Judge James Letsinger granted the request of Public Defender David Schneider to move the case from Lake County.

Schneider, representing Rufus L. Averhart, 27, argued his client could not receive a fair trial because of pre-trial publicity involving the murder of Lt. George Yaros.  Yaros, a 30-year veteran of the Gary police department, was fatally shot Aug. 11 responding to a robbery call at the Gary National Bank branch at 3680 Broadway.

Letsinger ruled the change will include all three defendants, Ralph D. Hutson, 32, and David North, 29 are also charged with the Aug. 11 murder for which the death penalty is being sought.  The judge said he believed the defendants, all of Gary, are entitled to trial in a neutral location.  Allen County is in the Ft. Wayne area. Letsinger ordered the county police department to transport the records and defendants to Allen County.

Deputy Prosecutor John McGrath opposed moving the case. He said the news stories were factual. He said editorials and letters to the editor opposed the crime, not the defendants.

Averhart was on parole.   He served seven years in a state prison for killing a 69-year old Gary man in December 1972. Averhart and North have pleaded innocent and asked for jury trials.

Hutson claimed he was not mentally competent to stand trial.  A hearing had been scheduled Thursday on the mental question. Letsinger did not rule on a motion to separate the defendants for trial.

3 accused killers of Gary policeman to face trial in April

Fort Wayne (10/81) - Three Gary men were ordered Friday to stand trial next April 19 on death penalty charges they murdered Gary police Lt. George Yaros.  The trial will be held here.  Allen Superior Court Judge Alfred Moellering set the trial date for Rufus Averhart, 27; David North, 30 and Ralph Hutson, 32.

The three are charged with fatally shooting Yaros Aug. 11 during a robbery at the Glen Park branch of the Gary National Bank, 3680 Broadway.  The three allegedly took $20,000 at gunpoint from bank tellers and killed Yaros during a gun battle behind the bank.  They were arrested minutes later.

Their trial was moved here last month after Lake Superior Court Judge James Letsinger ruled that pre-trial publicity made it impossible for the men to receive a fair trial in Lake County.

Averhart and North have pleaded innocent to the robbery-murder charges.  Hutson hasn't been arraigned yet because he is undergoing psychiatric examinations to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Yaros slayers will be sentenced on Tuesday

Fort Wayne (4/27/82) - Rufus Averhart, David North and Ralph Hutson will be sentenced here Tuesday for the murder of Gary police Lt. George Yaros. An Allen County Superior Court jury convicted them April 26.

It recommended that Allen County Judge Alfred Moellering condemn Averhart, 27, to death, but spare North 33, and Hutson, 32, from capital punishment.  The recommendations are not binding.

However, an Indiana Supreme Court ruling in another capital punishment case two weeks ago may have an effect on whatever Moellering decides Tuesday.  That ruling reversed the death penalty-murder conviction of a Lafayette man because the jurors were allowed to go home at night, instead of being sequestered during the trial, despite repeated defense objections.  Justice Roger O. DeBruler said a jury in a death-penalty murder case must be sequestered if the defense so requests.  The jury in the Yaros case wasn't sequestered either.  Public Defenders for Averhart, North and Hutson said they may base their appeals for a new trial on this ruling.

Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford said earlier that he was concerned that Moellering might cancel the sentencing and order a new trial. However, a spokesman for Moellering said Friday the sentencing will take place.

Deputy Prosecutor John McGrath said he doesn't remember the public defender asking that the jury be sequestered during presentation of evidence at the trial.

Evidence indicated the three men robbed the Gary National Bank branch near 37th Avenue and Broadway Aug. 11.  Averhart shot Yaros at close range during the escape.

(The trial evidence, as heard by me: Yaros was felled in a hail of gun fire when the three defendants exited the bank.  He was on the ground, and had dropped his service revolver.  Averhart stepped right over him making his way to the getaway car.  He then returned to Yaros, laying on the ground, kicked his service revolver out of reach and shot him point-blank through the liver with the pistol he was carrying.

Sentencing did in fact proceed as scheduled. Averhart was sentenced to die in the electric chair.  North and Hutson were given 60 years in prison.

At no time, be it during trial or at sentencing did any of the defendants exhibit any emotion in their faces.  It was more than chilling to personally observe how "cold" these individuals are.  It was painfully obvious the taking of a human life, to them, was no different than swatting a pesky mosquito. - GDY)

Round #2 - Appeal

Averhart, as is his right, appealed his conviction and sentence.  Not content to let the attorneys handle the technicalities, he became personally involved, filing multiple pro se briefs.  A total of 23 claimed errors were presented in the appeal.  The claimed errors attacked the propriety of the initial arrest, indictment procedure, pre-trial rulings, errors at trial and defects in the Indiana death penalty statute.

The Indiana Supreme Court rendered a 5 - 0 decision upholding the guilty verdict and the sentence of death.  This decision was reached on 10/29/84.

The decision is available  HERE for your review.

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Round #3 - Appeal II

One would think, once the law has spoken, that is it.  As with many things in life, that is not always true.  When a prisoner has exhausted all of his primary appeal rights, resort to post-conviction proceedings begins.  In a post-conviction proceeding, the convict asserts the conviction runs afoul of the constitution, and that justifies a reversal.  Averhart, having been "around the horn" many times is well aware of post-conviction procedure, and utilized it.

He argued he was entitled to a reversal and new trial.  Why?  He asserted a) his lawyer was ineffective by not objecting to testimony from Lt. Yaros' wife which resulted in the introduction of a photograph of Lt. Yaros holding his granddaughter on his lap; b) the state withheld favorable evidence at trial; c) his trial lawyer incompetently defended him during the guilt phase of his bifurcated trial ; d) his lawyer ineffectively represented him during the sentencing phase of trial and e) he was entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

This appeal resulted in a 4 -1 decision by the Indiana Supreme Court.  This decision was rendered on 5/27/93.  Unfortunately, the decision was one of yes, Averhart was entitled to a new trial as to what sentence should be imposed!

The decision granting a new sentencing trial is available HERE for your review.

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Round #4 - Retrial on Sentence

In 1996 a new jury, a new judge, new prosecutors, a new defense attorney and Averhart, once again convened in the Allen County Courthouse.  The express purpose of this gathering was solely to determine what punishment Rufus Averhart, now going by the name of Zolo Angona Azania and describing himself publicly as an "ex-offender," should receive for the cold-blooded murder of Lt. George Yaros.  The jury concluded its work on Feb. 20.  Their collective decision was Averhart meet his just reward (death) at the hands of the state.

Jury Recommends Death for Averhart

The former Gary man killed Gary Police Lt. George Yaros in 1981.

By: Bill Dolan, Staff Writer Gary Post-Tribune

Fort Wayne (2/22/96) - A man who killed a Gary police officer in 1981 has learned his 14-year battle to leave death row now appears to have failed.  An Allen County jury recommended Tuesday that Rufus Averhart, 41, formerly of Gary be executed by lethal injection for murdering Lt. George Yaros.  This is the same recommendation made 14 years ago by another Allen County jury for the same killing.  (Not quite the same. The prior recommendation was death by electrocution - GDY)

It was not the result Averhart and his lawyers fought for after long years of appeals to overturn the first jury's opinion.  However, it pleased Mitch Uzelac, a former Gary policeman and close friend of Yaros.  "George was a prince of a man.  He never took the captain's test because he did not want to be stuck in an office away from the men in the street," Uzelac said.

Averhart, Ralph Hutson, 46, and David North, 44, also formerly of Gary, were convicted 14 years ago of committing a robbery Aug. 11, 1981, at the Gary National Bank branch at 3680 Broadway.  Yaros, who was going to retire at the end of that year, was one of the first two officers to respond to the bank alarm.  (He was, in actuality the first officer to respond, and was without backup at the time Averhart took his life. - GDY)

The robbers fired a hail of bullets at Yaros, who was wounded.  A witness saw Averhart pause over the fallen officer and fire at least one shot into Yaros' body before fleeing.  The three were captured within minutes.

The 1982 trial was moved to Fort Wayne because of pre-trial publicity.  After a seven-day trial, a jury found the three men guilty of robbery-murder and recommended Averhart's execution.  Former Allen Superior Judge Alfred Moellering imposed the death sentence a month later.  Hutson and North are each serving a 60-year sentence in connection with Yaros' killing.

Averhart spent the intervening years waging a public-relations campaign from his death-row cell, claiming his conviction was a racist conspiracy operating at the highest levels of state and federal government.  His court-appointed appellate lawyers found flaws in the conduct of the sentencing judge and Averhart's trial lawyers, and last year won a new sentencing hearing from an appeals court judge.

The hearing ended Wednesday with Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Susan Collins arguing the shooting "was the act of a cold-blooded killer who looked at the police officer laying on the ground, defenseless and unconscious, and chose to shoot him." Defense attorney Michelle Fennessy told jurors there was no credible evidence of an execution-style killing.

Allen Superior Court Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger will decide whether to follow the new jury's recommendation at a March 18 sentencing hearing.

Zolo Agona Azania Handed Second Death Sentencefor 1981 Slaying of Gary Police Officer

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette(3/19/96)

After hearing more than three hours of arguments from Lake County prosecutors and Azania's defense lawyers, Allen Superior Judge Kenneth R. Scheibenberger ordered that Azania be executed.  A date of execution has not been set.

Azania, formerly known as Rufus Averhart, was convicted in Allen Superior Court in 1982 of murder and felony murder.  The trial was moved to Allen County because of pre-trial publicity.  After the conviction, Azania was sentenced to death by then-Allen Superior Judge Alfred W. Moellering.

In 1993, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the conviction but reversed the death penalty, finding ineffective assistance of counsel because defense attorneys presented no testimony that might have helped Azania avoid the death penalty.

A retrial of the penalty phase of Azania's trial was conducted last month, and a second jury again recommended the death penalty. Scheibenberger was not bound by the jury's recommendation.

Azania remained stoic when the judge pronounced the sentence.  He later said he would appeal. (Round #5?  What a surprise! -GDY)

Ann Yaros, the widow of George Yaros, said the case is far from over. " I hope justice has been done, finally," she said. "How long is it going to keep on going?"  [Webmaster Comment - Far longer than Aunt Ann could, or would, think possible.  She is now in the autumn of her years, and 27 years later, there still is no end is in sight!]

Scheibenberger said he is convinced Azania was the leader of three men who robbed a Gary bank Aug. 11, 1981, and that Azania shot Yaros when he responded to the robbery.  But the judge said he is not convinced that Yaros was shot execution-style as prosecutors alleged.

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Hearing to review man's death sentence this week

Convicted cop killer's lawyer says jury did not proportionately reflect Allen County's diversity.

By Mike Ellis
Indianapolis Star
March 12, 2001

George "Tim" Yaros is unapologetic about wanting Zolo Agona Azania to die.

Azania, formerly known as Rufus Averhart, has been on Indiana's Death Row nearly 20 years for the shooting death of Yaros' father, Gary police officer George Yaros.

"I'd kill him with my bare hands, and I don't care if he knows that," Tim Yaros said.  "My dad was my best friend.  He did everything for me.  I wouldn't be talking to you today if it wasn't for my father."

But Yaros' wishes may be put on hold indefinitely because of a hearing scheduled this week in Fort Wayne.  Azania and his lawyers say the jury that recommended he receive the death sentence was chosen improperly.

Azania's case has attracted worldwide attention from death penalty opponents -- mobilized through an Internet campaign -- and has raised questions once again about how juries are selected in Indiana.  At issue: the racial makeup of Azania's jury.

"There are many aspects of his case that are troubling," said Azania's lawyer, Michael Deutsch, of Chicago.

Azania, 46, was one of three men convicted of killing George Yaros during an Aug. 11, 1981, robbery of a Gary bank.  The elder Yaros, a World War II paratrooper and a 29-year veteran of the Gary Police Department, was due to retire in six months.

Yaros responded to a police radio call and confronted the robbers as they fled the bank.  He was met with a hail of gunfire and died from numerous bullet wounds.

"My oldest son was born almost a month after he (George Yaros) was killed, and he never saw him," said Tim Yaros, whose sons, George Steven and George Christopher, are named for the slain officer.  "My sons excelled in sports, and my father didn't get to see it. It hurts; it literally hurts, and people don't understand that."

Azania, identified as the triggerman, received the death penalty following a 1982 trial that was moved to Allen County because the case received so much news coverage.

His co-defendants, David North and Ralph Hutson, received 60-year sentences.

Azania's conviction has been upheld through several appeals, but in 1993, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned his death sentence.  A second jury in 1996 recommended the death penalty, and Allen Superior Court Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger later reinstated it.

However, Azania and his lawyers contend that the 1996 jury was improperly selected.  They point to the discovery that year of a computer error that caused most of the potential jurors from Allen County's Wayne Township -- the one with the most black residents -- to be left out of the jury pool.

Three other people who were tried in Allen County on other charges during that time have sought to have their convictions overturned, but the Indiana Court of Appeals turned them down.

Nonetheless, the Indiana Supreme Court last year ordered Judge Scheibenberger to allow a hearing on how the computer error might have affected the death sentence of Azania, who is black.

Strong case

Deutsch thinks he has a stronger case than the other Allen County cases considered by the appeals court.

"They didn't show what the under-representation of African-Americans was," he said.  "They didn't explain the nature, specifically, of the computer error and how it affected the jury pools in terms of exact under-representation."

However, Deputy Attorney General Christopher Lafuse thinks Deutsch will fail to show that the computer error was intentional or caused the systematic exclusion of any particular group.

Henry Karlson, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, also disputed the jury selection issues raised by Azania's lawyers.  He sees no evidence the Allen County courts intended to discriminate.

"You're not entitled to have every segment of the community on your jury," he said.  "You're merely entitled to an opportunity for them to be on your jury."

Another issue Deutsch will raise is the alleged coaching of a witness by police.  He said the witness, James McGrew, couldn't identity Azania as the gunman until a police officer pointed him out in court.

"We believe the conviction will be upheld even without his identification," Lafuse said.

Deutsch would not allow Azania to speak for this story, but Azania has pleaded his case through his Internet Web site.

The Web site also contains samples of Azania's paintings and writings, along with documentation of his many complaints against the Indiana prison system.

Indiana Department of Correction officials said Azania does not have access to a computer at the State Prison in Michigan City.  The materials posted on the site are sent outside the prison to people who operate the Web site for him.

The Web site, linked to several anti-death penalty sites, has attracted a following from across the United States and as far away as Japan.

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Trial court bars death penalty in 1981 Gary police killing

By Sara Eaton
The Fort Waye Journal Gazette, May 4th 2005

Lake County prosecutors have been barred from pursuing the death penalty against a man convicted in Allen County of shooting and killing a Gary police officer in 1981, a judge ruled this week.

Zolo Agona Azania, 50, formerly known as Rufus Averhart, was convicted in 1982 of murder in the 1981 slaying of a police officer during a Gary bank robbery.  An Allen County jury sentenced him to death twice but the Indiana Supreme Court overturned the sentences while upholding the conviction.

Since the most recent reversal, Azania’s attorneys, Michael Deutsch and Jessie Cook, argued to eliminate the possibility of allowing prosecutors to continue pursuing the death penalty.  Deutsch argued during a hearing this year that the 23-year-old case has been delayed by the prosecution, which has violated Azania’s due process rights.

Boone Circuit Court Judge Steven H. David, who was appointed as special judge to oversee the case after all three Allen Superior Court judges recused themselves for various reasons, ruled in favor of Azania.  The case was originally transferred to Allen County from Lake County because of pre-trial publicity.  Jurors in each trial have been Allen County residents.

The ruling pleased Azania and his attorneys, Cook said.  [Webmaster Comment - Why and the hell wouldn't it please him?  Nearly a quarter of a century after murdering Police Lt. George Yaros in cold blood, he is assured he will continue to see the sun rise every morning for the near future! A message to Deutsch was not returned Tuesday.

The Lake County Prosecutors Office, meanwhile, intends to appeal the decision, spokeswoman Diane Poulton said.  The office was disappointed in the judge’s ruling, she said.

The three-week penalty phase trial, scheduled for early 2006, will likely be canceled and a standard sentencing date will likely be scheduled.  Azania will make his next appearance in Allen Superior Court on May 20, when the attorneys and the judge are expected to discuss how the sentencing will occur.

“In analyzing the period of delay between the defendant’s 1982 conviction and the currently pending penalty proceeding, it is clear from the record that the state bears most of the responsibility for the delay.  Although blaming the state is not the appropriate analysis alone, the bottom line is that very little of the overall delay is attributable to the defendant.

“There is merit to the defendant’s argument that given the 23 plus year passage of time the jury will likely conclude that the defendant if not given the death penalty will soon be released from prison … the court must recognize that there is no realistic way to prevent this issue from being in the minds of jurors as they deliberate the case,” the ruling states.

David repeatedly highlighted that his ruling stems from particular circumstances in this case, explaining that he supports the death penalty and doesn’t believe his ruling should decrease the severity of the crime.

David also wrote that if the prosecutors continue with the death penalty, Azania might have difficulty defending himself because some witnesses have died over the years.  Defending himself is a constitutional right, and the ruling states that allowing prosecutors to continue with the death penalty could violate Azania’s constitutional rights.

Although David granted the request barring prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, he ruled against several other requests Azania’s attorneys raised, including the dismissal of the entire case.

Azania is one of three men convicted of shooting Gary police officer George Yaros during a 1981 bank robbery.  Allen County jurors first recommended the death penalty in 1982, and Allen Superior Judge Al Moellering sentenced Azania to die the first time.

Azania appealed, and the Indiana Supreme Court, citing ineffective counsel, sent the case back to Allen County in 1996 for a new sentencing hearing.  Azania was again sentenced to death, this time by Allen Superior Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger.  But the high court ruled in 2001 that Azania could challenge his sentence after he objected to his jury pool.  Azania’s attorneys argued the jury pool did not accurately represent the community.

A computer program excluded Wayne Township registered voters from Allen County jury pools between 1981 and 1996, Azania’s lawyers said.  The glitch resulted in a pool of 189 people – with only five blacks – for Azania’s case. Azania is black.

Scheibenberger ruled in April 2001 that Azania’s lawyers failed to prove any intentional discrimination or systematic exclusion of black jurors from Allen County’s jury pool and that the exclusion was caused by a computer flaw that was immediately remedied upon discovery.

Indiana Supreme Court Justices Robert Rucker, Frank Sullivan Jr. and Theodore R. Boehm ordered a new penalty hearing but kept Azania’s conviction intact.  Justices Brent Dickson and Randall T. Shepard dissented.

This article initially appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette 

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[Source Gary Post-Tribune]
May 11, 2007

The Indiana Supreme Court has rejected a trial court's 2-year-old decision that a man convicted of killing a Gary cop in 1981 should not face the death penalty.  Barring another successful appeal, Zolo Azania is expected to return to an Allen County court room where Lake County prosecutors will again seek the death penalty.  Azania was convicted of murder in 1982 for the death of Gary police Lt. George Yaros.

"I'm just ecstatic right now," said Tim Yaros, the son of George Yaros.

Azania was convicted of Yaros' murder under the name Rufus Averhart.  His trial was held in Allen County because of pre-trial publicity.  In 1993, the Indiana Supreme Court threw out his 1st death sentence, citing ineffective assistance of counsel.  He was sentenced to death again in 1996, but the Supreme Court tossed that case because a computer glitch tainted the jury pool.  Lake County prosecutors pursued the death penalty a 3rd time, only to be told in 2005 that too much time had passed.

In its latest ruling, posted online Thursday, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 3-2 that the penalty phase should move forward.  Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert D. Rucker dissented.  Rucker is a former Lake County deputy prosecutor and a former attorney for the city of Gary.

When arguments were held in June 2006, Azania's attorney pointed out that key witnesses who would otherwise be placed on the stand have died.  In the ruling, Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. concedes that their deaths prejudice Azania's case, but not enough to violate his due process rights.  Boehm, in his dissent, points to the failures of the state's criminal justice system in causing a delay in the trial.  Rucker, meanwhile, said the witnesses who have been lost are an "indispensable" part of the death penalty process.

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Judge won't move death penalty trial
[16 May 2008]

A Marion Superior Court judge has denied a request to move a death penalty trial back to Lake County, where the defendant killed a Gary police officer in 1981.

The Indiana Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing for Zolo Agona Azania, 52, who was convicted of murder by an Allen County jury.  His attorneys asked Special Judge Robert Altice to move the penalty phase trial to Lake County, though the case originally had been moved to Allen County because of pretrial publicity in the case.

Altice denied the motion this week.  An Allen County jury will consider whether Azania deserves the death penalty during a trial scheduled to begin Oct. 20 in Fort Wayne, with Altice presiding.  Azania killed Gary Police Lt. George Yaros during a bank robbery.

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Allen County to Host Man's Third Trial in Gary Cop Killing
From Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel staff, wire reports
[4 Oct 2008]

Rufus Averhart's two previous death sentences have been overturned.  A third Allen County jury will be asked to decide the death penalty case of the man accused of killing Gary police officer, Lt. George Yaros, in 1981.

Allen Superior Court has set Oct. 20 to begin the retrial of Rufus Averhart.  The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last November to overturn two previous death sentences by Allen County juries against Averhart.  Averhart sought to be resentenced under the pre-2002 death penalty statute, which would have allowed a jury to impose a term of years or life without parole as a sentence.  His defense counsel argued that prosecutors should be barred from seeking the death penalty again because the passage of time would hinder his defense.  Attorney Michael Deutsch told the high court in June 2006 that several witnesses who could provide mitigating evidence were dead, and some physical evidence was now missing.

Rufus Averhart, was sentenced to death twice in the killing of Gary police Lt. George Yaros during a bank robbery.  In 1982, the case was moved to Allen County, at Averhart's request, because of pretrial publicity in Gary.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Averhart will be resentenced under the post-2002 death penalty statute, but cannot receive life without parole.

The issue to be determined at trial is not one of guilt or innocence.  He is, and stands, convicted of the murder of Lt. George Yaros.  What is to be determined is the penalty for this murder.  The significance of the resentencing ruling is that the jurors have only 2-options:  A sentence of death, or a sentence of life in prision.  Unfortunately, a life sentence is not exactly what it appears to be.

In Indiana, prisoners serving life become eligible for parole after 30 years.  If sentenced to life by this jury, accompanied with credit for time served prior to trial, would make Averhart eligible for release as early as 2011!

The spectre of release should send a chill down the spine of all.  Prior to this incaceration, Averhart was also housed In the Indiana State Penitentiary, for commission of another homicide.  He convinced his incarcerators that he was reformed, and gained a parole.  13 short months after his release, he exited the Glen Park Branch of the Gary National Bank on 8/11/1981, with the loot gained from the armed robbery, encountered Lt. Yaros, and took his life while attempting to make his get-a-way.

The question that must be both asked and answered is, "How many times are the citizens of Indiana willing to unleash this scum to wreck havoc in the community?"

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Backers of holdup suspect dismayed
By Tom Knightly and Ernie Hernandez, Post-Tribune Staff Reporters

Gary (8/12/81)- A feature story on Rufus Averhart, held out as an inspirational model of how a prison inmate can rehabilitate himself, was spread across the front of the Northwest Indiana section in Sunday's (8/9/81) Post-Tribune.

Today, people who were credited with helping Averhart become "rehabilitated" felt shocked, dismayed and betrayed after his arrest in connection with a bank robbery and the slaying of a policeman.

"I'm shocked, confused, I don't know what to do," said his mother, Orleaner Averhart.  "I'm praying that he tells me he wasn't involved," she said this morning before she had a chance to talk to her son.  She expressed the hope that he wasn't involved willingly, that he was "set up" by his companions because he had a car.  (If he had a car, why was he in a stolen vehicle, which was used as the get-a-way car? - GDY)

Averhart, who was released last year after serving 7 years for his part in a home invasion murder (emphasis supplied - GDY), was held in connection with the slaying of Gary Police Lt. George Yaros.

Yaros was gunned down when he responded to a holdup alarm at the Gary National Bank's Glen Park Branch. Averhart, who was arrested by police along with two other suspects after a chase reportedly was armed with a 357-caliber Magnum used in the fatal shooting.

The heading on Sunday's Post-Tribune story read "The murder is history; a new life is future."

The lead paragraph on the story by Ernie Hernandez read: "If ever there was an argument against capital punishment, it could be the life of Rufus Averhart."

A photograph showed Averhart in his graduation gown about to receive his high school equivalency diploma July 31.  He was the class speaker at the graduation exercises for the Gary Manpower Administration's General Education Development program.  He was a prize graduate who received a Basic Education Opportunity grant to attend Purdue University in West Lafayette next fall as a full-time student.

Life looked full of promise for Averhart, thanks to efforts of teachers and other people who gave him a helping hand.  They included some art fanciers who saw a developing talent in Averhart, who took up painting while in prison.  The patrons saw to it that Averhart got the art materials he needed.  They expressed confidence in him as "a young man with a captivating smile and a desire to rise above his predicament."

Reporter Hernandez met Averhart the first time three years ago to interview him about his art work, which had been displayed in Gary.  The newsman visited him at the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City and came to know him well.

In many conversations in the prison's visiting hall, Averhart talked about the changes in his life, and subsiding the anger of his youth. He spoke of a new life.  He seemed to mean what he said, and he impressed many people in and out of prison.

Averhart, 27, was released from prison July 8, 1980, for good behavior (emphasis supplied - GDY).  His works, some 100 paintings were displayed at the Gary Public Library.

He said he got into the trouble that landed him in prison by getting in with the wrong crowd.  The "wrong crowd" was a gang called "Gangsteroos," which invaded the home of 69-year old Leonard Wick at 2131 W. 9th Ave. and shot him to death Dec. 23, 1972. Averhart, who had turned 18 two weeks earlier, was one of those who participated in the home invasion.

The newspaper article quoted Averhart as saying, "I went to jail for my social conditions -- not that I didn't know right from wrong; I did, but life was meaningless for a black child in the ghetto.  I was immature, misdirected."

He said that he had a lot of time to think while in prison and determined that he would make a new life, through art and education. He spoke of people who helped him, such as Gary steelworker Gretel Goldsmith and reporter Hernandez, by showing him confidence.  "I can't, I won't let you down," he said.

Ms. Goldsmith, who helped Averhart obtain art materials and who displayed some of his art work while he was in prison, had expressed her faith in the young man's rehabilitation.  Today, she said she too was shocked and saddened by the turn of events.

After Tuesday's shooting, people began calling the Post-Tribune and inquired if the man accused of slaying Yaros was the same Rufus Averhart featured in Sunday's paper.  He was. Some callers said it was unfortunate that so many people, The Post-Tribune included, were "taken in."  One man said it's sad that the turn of events will make it much more difficult for others in prison to claim they are rehabilitated.

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There's just nothing phonier than a live martyr

Fools all over the world find themselves a new anti-capital punishment  mascot.


I'm not suggesting that you try this, but: If you ever brutally murder somebody, can't afford O.J. Simpson's Dream Team and still want to avoid death row by getting people to feel sorry for you, here's a tip.  Get yourself a new name and align yourself with an angry and exotic-sounding political movement and you, too, could be transformed from a cold-blooded murderer into an innocent victim of political oppression almost overnight.


2 years ago, you may recall, the convicted killer of a Philadelphia cop, Mumia Abu-Jamal, became the darling of Hollywood and leftists everywhere who despise the death penalty and America 's "racist" criminal justice system.  "Free Mumia!" sounds so much better than "free Wesley Cook!"


Now it's happening again.  And, believe it or not, conservative old Fort Wayne is about to be in the center of the storm.  Rufus Averhart was just another thug lingering on Indiana 's death row until he changed his name a few years to Zolo Agona Azania -- who, according to a letter I received the other day from England , is "one of numerous New Afrikans who await execution as a result of the white supremacist criminal 'justice' system."


Now, according to various sympathic Web pages that seem determined to turn murderers into martyrs, Azania is a "talented artist and writer who has much to offer to the community" who was a "marked man" on his way to the grocery store when he was stopped by police, handcuffed, pistol-whipped, arrested without warrant or explanation" and charged with the murder of a Gary police officer.


To which even one of Azania 's former attorneys responds, "That's so full of crap."  Michelle Kraus of Fort Wayne , who represented Azania during his 1996 appeal of the death sentence imposed after his conviction for the murder committed 15 years earlier (he was tried in Allen County), agrees that the courts have not always treated her former client fairly.  She has serious doubts, for example, about testimony that, after robbing the Gary bank, Azania went back inside and executed the already wounded Lt. George Yaros.  And, Kraus ads, evidence of Azania 's violent and poverty-stricken childhood should have been weighed by juries deliberating his guilt or punishment.  It's also true that there was a period several years ago during which a computer glitch excluded about 4,000 people from an area containing about 75 % of Allen County 's potential black jurors.


But Kraus is satisfied -- because surveillance cameras show it -- that Azania not only participated in the robbery, but fired the .44-caliber bullet that killed Yaros. That's because, of the three men who robbed the bank, Azania was the only one carrying that type of weapon.


Despite all that -- and the fact that he also served six years in prison for a 1972 murder -- fools all over the world who never heard of George Yaros have made Azania their mascot in the battle to stop capital punishment.  Or, as a letter I received last week from Paris put it: "I am supporting Zolo Agonia (sic) Azania because I'm convinced of his innocence."


But, of course, the vast majority of people who support Azania don't really care about little things like guilt or innocence.  This is all about the politics of class and race.  "Like many poor, black men on death row, Zolo Azania never received a fair trial to establish the facts of his case," lamented one Web site.  "He identifies as a Conscious Citizen of the Republic of New Afrika and he firmly supports any cause that works in earnest with poor people regardless of race or religion, in their struggle against hunger, disease, exploitation and poverty.  It's very little wonder our government wants him dead."  


Added a Web site authored by Azania himself: "I was arrested on trumped-up charges of armed bank robbery and murder of a white policeman (emphasis mine).  I am still standing strong and fighting back hard for total liberation, genuine independence, economic self-reliance and a higher meaning and form of real justice for all."


"It's no wonder he changed his name to Azania," quipped Allen County Sheriff Jim Herman.  "Rufus Averhart did some bad things."


This kind of cynical nonsense is, I'm afraid, all too typical of our age.  In pursuit of worthy causes -- the fight against poverty, racism and injustice certainly qualify -- people useful in the struggle will be forgiven even the most serious of sins.  The NAACP did much the same thing when it gave former President Clinton one of its prestigious "Image Awards" this past week.  It's one thing to stand by a man whose policies you support; quite another to praise his "image" despite ample evidence of egregious behavior.


Nor is this see-no-evil determination limited to any single race or cause.  It is evident when "pro-life" groups excuse people who kill abortionists.  And it is evident when anti-government forces on the left (the Black Panthers of the '60s) and the right (the Timothy McVeighs of today) justify terrorism.

Several days ago, by coincidence, we printed a letter from James Krumwiede who tried to justify McVeigh's murder of 168 Americans in Oklahoma City by comparing him to Colonists seeking independence from England .


But the letter produced an interesting -- and instructive -- response.  Far from drawing support from our overwhelmingly conservative readers, Krumwiede's letter has generated a storm of indignation from people who know the difference between disliking and even hating the government and blowing up the children of federal employees.  It's a lesson people who think a dead cop is a small price to pay for racial and social justice have yet to learn.

Azania , by the way, will be in town this week trying, again, to get a judge to spare his life.  At least McVeigh has had the decency not only to accept his execution, but to request that it be televised.


Somebody should tell Azania that, to be a real martyr, you can't do it from a cell or on the Internet.  You've got to do it from the grave.

(source: Editorial, Kevin Leininger, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, March 10, 2001)


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The "Con" Continues/Never Ends

Re:  Killer as artist:  What's to celebrate?

Date posted online @ Sunday, November 18, 2007

I recently read about a Chicago gallery which has featured the "art" of convicted killers Renaldo Hudson and Rufus Averhart, with whose cases I have been involved.  Hudson, 43, was on death row in Illinois until governor and future felon George Ryan blanketed the prison system with pardons.  Averhart, 52, is on death row at the Indiana State Prison.  But now they are "talented artists," said the promo for Los Manos Gallery, which featured an exhibition of their "works" in 2005.  "They are connected by the experience of sitting on death row," said the promo, which invited people to "celebrate the artists and their works."

Are these people nuts?   Averhart changed his name to Zolo Agona Azania, and while the prison system is forced to recognize his bogus name, I'm not.  He is a double killer, first slaying Leonard Wick, 69, inside his Gary home in 1972.  Released after serving a term for involuntary manslaughter, Averhart was praised as a model of rehabilitation.  That was days before he robbed a bank and murdered Gary police Lt. George Yaros on Aug. 11, 1981, shooting him as he lay wounded.

Local funeral director John Pruzin knew Wick and Yaros, and he can't see any reason to be celebrating Averhart.  Neither can Tim Yaros, the son of the fallen officer.  "Leonard was just an outstanding guy, a stubborn old German Lutheran who wasn't going to move" as his neighborhood deteriorated around him, Pruzin said.  "Then I got the call from Tim, telling me the same guy had killed his dad.  A good guy, a paratrooper in World War II, a good family man."

See their artwork if you must.  It's on the Internet where do-gooders continue to argue these murderers are the real victims.  But if you really want to see the medium in which Hudson and Averhart work best, there are some crime scene photos you might want to check out.

The opinions are solely those of the writer.  He can be reached at or (219) 933-4170.

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Public Reaction - Letters To The Editor

Blame criminals, not us!

In a recent "Voice of the People," a letter written by a prisoner in Indiana State Prison in Michigan City was printed.  In that letter, Mr. Burnett stated the need for a citizens watch committee to investigate the penal system.  True, many, if not most or our country's prisons need to be examined and possibly reformed.

However, what prompted me to respond to Mr. Burnett's letter was his belief that if citizens do not act toward prison reform, they "should be held personally responsible for any actions that a man may take upon his or her release from prison."


Simply because someone lacks self control and discipline, and eventually winds up in prison because of it, does not make me responsible for his actions!

I believe everyone is responsible for himself.  Now, should someone decide to infringe upon me, or the rights of my friends, or more notably, the right of Lt. George Yaros (in that case his right to live), that someone is responsible for his actions and deserve the punishment -- be it a prison sentence or the death sentence.

Investigate what really goes on in prison?  Yes.  Discover an effective rehabilitation system?  Definitely:  But be held responsible for the actions of convicted criminals?


-- Marie Siroky, Gary

Averhart has received fair, just treatment
[20 Dec 2007]

What does Elizabeth Benson of Chicago know about the Rufus Averhart (Zola Agona Azania) case?  What does she know about Lt. George Yaros, the victim?  What is this "unjust and prejudicial treatment" of Averhart?

So Averhart has "consistently proclaimed his innocence."  So what?  Prisons are full of people who proclaim their innocence.

Averhart gunned down Yaros during a bank robbery. He was apprehended after a car chase and shootout with police. He was found guilty, and the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but threw out the death sentence in 1993.

A new jury again recommended death in 1996, but the Supreme Court threw out that death sentence in 2002. Now, the court has ruled that he can be resentenced under a post-2002 death-penalty law.

Yaros was six months from retirement. Gary lost a dedicated police officer, and my family lost a friend on Aug. 11, 1981.

The "lapse of time" and waste of "Indiana's resources" is due to Indiana's system bending over backward to give Averhart the benefit of every doubt, every appeal, every chance. This is so far from Benson's uninformed statement about "unjust and prejudicial treatment" that it would be funny if her ignorance about this travesty wasn't so sad.

Averhart has played the system like a virtuoso. Maybe in Chicago, time and resources are weighed against justice. Thank God that's not the case in Indiana.

Justice delayed is justice denied, they say. But it's better than no justice at all.

You worry about justice in your state; we'll take care of it over here.

Joseph Rodino, Gary

Another policeman speaks out

This is the only response that I can make to the article that you printed in your paper by Sgt. Clayton who I am proud to count as a friend as well as a fellow police officer.  Lord, we humbly beseech you, grant us this prayer.

Though we are short on numbers, let us make our presence noticed.  Though we are outgunned, let us go forth with courage and determination.

Though our equipment be faulty, let us not falter in the war on crime.  Though we are spat upon and abused, both from within and without the department, let us not lose our humanity and sense of justice.

As we are directed by those who walk two paths, keep us on the right path.  We pray oh Lord that ambition or politics never deter us from our sworn oath "To serve and protect."  And finally, oh God, grant us the leadership that places our safety, work and living conditions before personal gains and political leanings.

It can truly be said yea though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil, for thou art our protector, and when the end comes as it did for Lt. Yaros, or whoever else, the officer will report to St. Peter saying, "Another Gary police officer reporting sir, I served my time in Hell."

Cpl Wm. J. Hias, Gary P.D.-Communications Section

Averhart Never Should Be Given His Freedom
[27 Oct 2008]

Convicted murderer and bank robber Rufus Averhart recently was granted a plea deal, agreed to by the Yaros family, even though he took the life of the family patriarch.

Lack of respect for life seems to be the accepted culture of today.  Laws need to be changed to protect the victims, the living.  This lack of respect, not only for life, but also of the law, is what caused Averhart to take not only one but two lives.

We see it every day in the news everywhere.  This does not make it right.  Lawmakers, I challenge you to change these laws before another family suffers the same fate as Lt. George Yaros' family.

No one who has taken a life in such a violent fashion should ever be returned to freedom.  In fact, if Averhart had not become so-called rehabilitated and returned to society after the Leonard Wick murder-home invasion in 1972, we could have saved the Yaros family 27 years of grief.

Life is sacred.  It is the most precious gift from our creator.  Ask any grandparent.  We can choose the culture of life or that of death.  Too bad Averhart has chosen the latter.  Averhart must live with that until the very last day, when the Lord calls him home.

Everything happens for a reason.  When we leave this world, we take nothing with us.  Only our words, deeds and family live on.

God bless Lt. George Yaros and his family.  May the Lord grant them closure so they can live in peace and again experience great joy.

Karen Terry

[NOTE:  Karen Terry is the niece of Lt. George Yaros]

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Murder suspect's brother acquitted in burglary trial

Crown Point (8/12/81) - Herman Averhart, Jr., 20, of Gary was acquitted of a burglary charge in Lake Superior Court here Tuesday afternoon about the time his brother, Rufus, was being arrested in connection with the robbery of the Gary National Bank and the slaying of Gary police Lt. George Yaros.

Herman Averhart was found innocent of charges he took part in a burglary July 5 at Powers &Sons Construction Company, Inc., 2636 W. 15th Ave., Gary.

Gary lawyer Robert Lewis argued there wasn't enough evidence to connect Averhart to the burglary. Lewis said Averhart was arrested near the burglary site, but that the arrest was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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