Indiana Trooper's Killer Sentenced

DECATUR, IN -- Mark L. Lichtenberger was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 20 years for the April 3, 1999 fatal shooting of Indiana State Police Officer Cory Elson, 26.Tpr. Elson was just halfway through his first year with the Indiana State Police when he pulled over Lichtenberger for a seemingly "routine" traffic violation. After Lichtenberger stopped his pickup truck, he jumped out and immediately opened fire on Elson with an assault rifle that had been converted to fire fully automatic. When the shooting stopped, Lichtenberger had fired 37 rounds, and Elson was on the ground, dead, next to his police car.After his arrest, it was learned that Lichtenberger had vowed to kill the next police officer who stopped him. This vow apparently was made after Lichtenberger had been stopped for an earlier traffic violation in February 1999.The decision to seek the life sentence, instead of going for the death penalty, was not made lightly by Christopher Harvey, the Adams County Prosecutor. After consulting with the family and considering the lengthy appeals that are associated with death penalty cases as well as the added stress this could place on the Elson's surviving family, the decision was made to offer the plea agreement.Lichtenberger's defense attorney, Stanley Campbell, said that agreeing to the plea was a tough decision for his client. Campbell said, "You have to be thinking, 'What's it going to be like to spend the rest of my life in a prison cell?'"After the sentencing Lichtenberger was led from the courthouse past dozens of other state police officers who attended the hearing.When asked how Tpr. Elson's death would affect other state police officers, Sgt. Rodger Popplewell offered this comment: "It means different things to different people. To each and every person, it means something deep in their heart that it might not mean to the next person. It does bring us closer together, and it's something we'll always remember."May God bless Tpr. Cory Elson's surviving family.This author's comment to the question posed by the defense attorney about what it will be like to spend the rest of one's life in prison: It'll be a lot roomier than spending your life in a coffin six feet below the ground, where Cory Elson is.

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