James Lohman | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 5, 2013 12:14AM
VALPARAISO — A Portage man admitted in court Monday that he, not his passenger, caused a woman to be dragged to death under his car.
James Lohman III, 50, originally told police the man in the passenger seat had hit the accelerator, running over and killing Sherri Lynn Jania, 45, in September 2011.
The incident left blood smears in the parking lot of the Shift Change bar at Indiana 149 and U.S. 20 in Burns Harbor, and the car dropped the body near Salt Creek as Lohman drove the gold Cougar west on U.S. 20, court records state.
Lohman had a blood-alcohol level of .106 almost two hours after he hit Jania. He now faces up to 20 years in prison for his plea to a Class B felony of leaving the scene of an accident.
He also pleaded to a Class C felony of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, causing the death of another person, but a Class C felony reckless homicide charge was dropped.
Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford scheduled Lohman’s sentencing for May 6.
The incident happened about 4:12 p.m. Witnesses said Jania was in the parking lot yelling out Lohman’s license plate number after a disturbance in the bar. When Lohman backed out, Jania dodged the car but somehow ended up in front and to the left of it.
A witness said Lohman cut the wheel sharply to the left and floored it. After he hit Jania, the car stopped for 10 to 15 seconds after someone opened the driver’s door, but then Lohman spun the wheels and took off while witnesses in the parking lot were yelling that Jania was under the car.
Police chased him until a Portage officer followed him from U.S. 20 and Douglas Drive and stopped him at Old Porter Road and 4th Street.
Lohman later told police his passenger was a high-ranking gang member, but Lohman would testify against him for pushing Lohman’s foot onto the pedal for a deal and safety from the passenger. He also initially refused to take field sobriety tests.