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Elkhart prosecutor accused of misconduct in arguing for contradictory narratives in shooting

Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker speaks at a press conference in Goshen on Monday, May 23.
Gemma DiCarlo
Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker speaks at a press conference in Goshen on Monday, May 23.

In August of 2003, a drive-by shooting in Elkhart killed 20-year-old Karla Castro and injured another man.

Police believe Ignacio Bahena pulled the trigger in that shooting but who gave Bahena the gun is a question that’s led to new allegations of misconduct against Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker.

In recent court filings by a man who was convicted with providing the gun used in the shooting, Becker knowingly told two separate courts that two different people gave Bahena the gun used to kill Castro.

The filing by Rodolfo Alexander is the latest allegation in a string of wrongful conviction petitions filed over the past five years that have uncovered prosecutorial misconduct as well as cost the city millions of dollars in civil settlements for wrongs done to defendants by police and prosecutors.

Who gave the gun?

All parties agree that Ignacio Bahena was the person who pulled the trigger in a drive-by shooting that killed 20-year-old Karla Castro and injured Jesus Gonzalez back on Aug. 13, 2003. Court records from the time say Bahena had a beef with Gonzalez and told people he wanted to fight Gonzalez.

Bahena apparently fled the country and has never stood trial for the shooting, but Eduardo Brena and Rodolfo Alexander were both in the car at the time and were eventually charged with aiding Bahena's violent act. At the time Vicki Becker was a deputy prosecutor and was in charge of both criminal cases.

Brena eventually pleaded guilty to providing a gun to Bahena on the day of the shooting, but a few weeks later at Alexander’s trial, Brena testified it was Alexander who gave Bahena the gun about a week before the fatal shooting, court records show. Alexander was convicted of murder as an accomplice and has been incarcerated since 2004.

Now, however, Alexander is attempting to get his conviction overturned due to the fact that Becker never disclosed she presented a contradictory version of who gave Bahena the gun.

Alexander says the jury in his case was swayed by the false testimony Brena provided and that Becker knew Brena's testimony was false because she had handled Brena's plea deal less than two months prior in which Brena admitted to giving Bahena the gun himself.

If he's ultimately successful with his new case, Alexander will have his conviction overturned and a chance at a new trial. He's now asking Elkhart County Judge Michael Christofeno to appoint a special prosecutor, since Becker herself will be a key witness in the proceedings.

Becker did not answer questions about Alexander's case but sent the following message to WVPE: "The State will be filing a response to the motion requesting a Special Prosecutor early next week which will become public record at the time of filing. I will not be answering any substantive questions, nor making any comments, outside of the judicial process given the fact this is a pending matter."

Nationally, watchdog groups have increased scrutiny on prosecutors who present courts with different versions of the same incident depending on who is on trial. According to reporting by ProPublica, 29 people have been sentenced to death since the 1970s in cases where prosecutors posed two different versions of events.

A hearing is scheduled for early May on the issue of a special prosecutor.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.