South Bend man who assaulted victims to serve time in prison

By DEBRA HAIGHT

Special to Leader Publications

NILES – A South Bend man who strangled and beat his girlfriend at her Niles Township home in January is going to prison.

Matthew James Gonzalez, 32, of South Bend, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and was sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court to two concurrent terms of 76 months to 10 years in prison. He has credit for 82 days already served and must pay $266 in fines and costs.

The incident occurred Jan. 9, at a home on Fairfield Drive in Niles Township when he strangled and beat one victim and hit another victim with a gun.

“In the wake of the victims you left behind, your sentence should be more than five, six, seven years,” Berrien County Trial Judge Charles LaSata said. “Where we’re at is protecting the community from your violent, assaultive behavior.”

“Your first adult conviction was when you were 17 in 2003 and it’s been pretty much nonstop since then,” LaSata said. “We have no recourse. You don’t deserve to live in the community. Your behavior is disgusting.”

LaSata refused defense attorney Jason Engram’s request that Gonzalez be able to serve his prison sentence in any penal institution as he has warrants out for him in Indiana.

“Absolutely not,” LaSata said. “The victim is in Michigan and I’m not giving him credit or allow[ing] him to serve the sentence in Indiana.”

Engram noted before the sentencing that Gonzalez had been using meth at the time of the incident.

For his part, Gonzalez apologized.

“I didn’t mean for this to happen,” he said. “If I could go back to that day, I’d do a lot of things different.”

In another sentencing, a Niles man with three convictions for fleeing and eluding police was sentenced to prison.

• William Terrell Gilliam, 25, of Lake Street in Niles, was sentenced to two to five years in prison for one count of third-degree fleeing and eluding police and a concurrent term of one to five years for another count of third-degree fleeing and eluding.

He was given credit for 19 days already served of fourth-degree fleeing and eluding and one count of resisting and obstructing police. He must pay $712 in fines and costs.

The fleeing and eluding incidents occurred July 12, Nov. 1 and Feb. 22 in Niles, while the resisting and obstructing incident occurred July 12.

Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Taylor said at least one of the fleeing and eluding incidents involved multiple police agencies.

A Niles woman who stole an elderly woman’s wedding ring was sentenced to one day in jail for each year of the victim’s life.

• Shelekia Davis, 33, of Market Street in Niles, pleaded guilty to attempted larceny in a building and was sentenced to two years probation, 95 days in jail and $973.68 in fines, costs and restitution.

The incident occurred at the Brentwood assisted living facility on South Third Street in Niles. Davis worked there and stole the ring of an elderly resident. Davis then pawned the ring for $26.

“This is your ninth criminal conviction in 12 years,” Judge LaSata said. “What were you thinking when you stole the wedding ring of a 95-year-old woman? This is what she has to remember her husband by and you only got $26. You’re not the worst person, but how low can you be?”

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