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Prosecutor: 2nd 'selfie squad' member convicted in Cass Co. home invasion

Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:47:52 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 17 2014 08:15:34 AM CDT

WSBT photo

Last week an Elkhart man was convicted of multiple felonies in a Cass County home invasion in part because he took a selfie on a phone that was left for police to find in the getaway vehicle. On Tuesday a second person was convicted in the crime.

The following release was issued Thursday morning by the Cass County Prosecutor's office:

A second member of the “Selfie” squad has been found guilty in Cass County.

Last week Deon Goodwin went to trial and was convicted of multiple felony counts arising from his part in an Elkhart based-conspiracy to invade an Ontwa Township home.

On Tuesday co-conspirator Paris Banks met a similar fate.

Both Goodwin and Banks were residents of Elkhart, Indiana at their April 9th 2014 crimes.

After a full day of testimony on Tuesday and the presentation of evidence by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kirk Metzger, a Cass County jury found Paris Banks guilty on Wednesday morning of Conspiracy to Commit Home Invasion -2nd Degree, Attempted Home Invasion 2nd Degree and Obstruction by Disguise.

The jury deliberated approximately an hour before returning their decision.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz stated that “These criminals slinked into Michigan with a particular focus---thievery. That does not fly well here. They will meet a just reward for their home invasion plans.”

Fitz also praised the victims and the neighbors for their observations and prompt cooperation with law enforcement. “It was a highly volatile situation. But the homeowner and alert citizens provided our Sheriff’s Department Ontwa Police with extremely helpful facts leading to the discovery of important evidence and the arrest of the crooks.”

Recovered evidence included a selfie photo located in an abandoned car a short distance from the victim’s home.

Trial testimony revealed that on April 9, 2014, Defendant along with two other co-defendants drove up from Elkhart and broke into a residence at 67438 Ashton Road in the Edwardsburg area. Ten witnesses testified at trial including the homeowner who encountered the Defendant and his accomplices as he returned in the late morning. He testified that he saw three young men come from the rear of his home and run to a red Mitsubishi SUV parked in his driveway. When he confronted the three men they indicated they were looking for directions to South Bend. Suspicious of the circumstances, the homeowner called Central Dispatch to advise them of the situation. In the meantime, the Defendant and his companions fled from the scene in the home owner’s vehicle and sped off at a high rate of speed. The homeowner was able to follow the red Mitsubishi for a distance but lost them on North Shore Drive. The homeowner returned to his residence to find that the back door to his garage had been damaged and the back door to his home had been smashed in and was open. He noted several interior doors had been left open that had been closed previously.

Meanwhile, Police personnel from the Cass County Sheriff's Office and the Edwardsburg-Ontwa Twp. Police Department took up the pursuit. A short time later, Deputies and Officers were able to locate the red Mitsubishi SUV abandoned and out of gas at a residence on Adamsville Road. With the help of several of the neighbors, officers were able to locate and apprehend the Defendant and his co-Defendants while they were walking across a nearby corn field.

On scene, Banks provided officers with a false name and denied any connection to the home invasion and the red Mitsubishi. At that time and in a later interview, he concocted a story that he and his co-Defendants were held up at gun point during a drug deal. This story was put forward by his co-Defendants as well. Officers located Co-Defendant Deon Goodwin's Debit Card and cell phone in the red Mitsubishi as well as a "selfie" of Deon Goodwin on that phone. The vehicle's owner testified that without her permission, Goodwin had been lent the vehicle by her granddaughter, Defendant's girlfriend, in Goshen, IN. Defendant's girlfriend testified that she lent Goodwin the car in order to go to a job interview not to take it to Michigan.

When confronted by these facts in a subsequent interview, Banks clung to his previous story of a drug delivery gone bad.

He did not take the stand to testify and did not present any witnesses.

Metzger effectively argued that there was no reasonable, innocent explanation for Defendant and his cohorts to be at 67438 Ashton Road. They were simply scared away prior to stealing anything by the arrival of the homeowner and the presence of his two dogs. The location, time of day, as well as the Defendant’s dishonesties and their actions at the home and during their flight from the police added up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to the Conspiracy and the Attempted Home Invasion -2nd Degree. Additionally, in providing a false identity to officers when he was apprehended, Defendant was guilty of Obstruction by Disguise

After approximately an hour of deliberation, the jury rendered the guilty verdicts on the record. Defendant was also found Not Guilty on a charge of Home Invasion 2nd Degree

The Defendant faces up to a 15 year maximum for his convictions for Conspiracy to Commit Home Invasion -2nd Degree, and up to 5 years for Attempted Home Invasion 2nd Degree.

Banks was living at 330 Jefferson Street, Elkhart, IN. at the time of the crime.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 15, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. in front of Cass Circuit Judge Michael Dodge.