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Prosecutors: Love triangle led to fatal hit-and-run

A northwest Indiana man unhappy that his girlfriend was seeing another man has been charged with murder after fatally striking the other man with a car as he and the woman walked hand-in-hand Sunday, prosecutors allege.

Alfred Vela, 44, was charged Tuesday with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and failure to stop at an accident involving death, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Lake County Superior Court.

About 6:25 p.m. Sunday, Joseph Burton was walking hand-in-hand with his girlfriend on the 900 block of Michigan Street in Hammond, according to a Hammond police report. The two were walking in the parking lane of the street when Burton was struck by a a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am.

The woman was knocked over and Burton was knocked out of his shoes upon impact, the report said. A witness who lives on that block told police she heard an engine accelerating but did not see the accident.

Burton’s left shoe landed in the driveway of one home and his right shoe landed with his body in the yard of another home, according to the report.

Burton, of Hammond, was taken to Saint Margaret Hospital in Hammond, and later transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 9:59 p.m. Monday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

According to the affidavit, Burton died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and spinal areas. Autopsy results were not yet available.

The woman told police that at the time of the incident she was involved with both Burton and Vela, according to the affidavit. She said Vela hated her relationship with Burton and had tried to hit Burton with his car in the past.

After striking Burton with the car, which belong to his ex-wife, Vela kept going, the affidavit alleges. He stopped in Gar to assess the damage to the car, then drove to his home in Portage, hiding the car behind the house.

In a taped statement to police, Vela said when he saw Burton and the woman walking in the street, he immediately swerved toward Burton in order to “brush him” and scare him. He also allegedly admitted striking Burton with the Grand Am, according to the affidavit.

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