Two charged in connection with murder of Lawrence Witzke

Mikail Martinez Kyle Johnson
UPDATE: In October 2023, Mikail Martinez sentenced to 60 years in prison for murder, battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, resisting law enforcement and a firearm enhancement.


ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Two people have been charged in connection with the murder of Lawrence Witzke on November 11.

Mikail Martinez, 23, was charged with one count of murder, one count of battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, and one count of resisting law enforcement.

Martinez also received a firearm enhancement.

Kyle Johnson, 24, was charged with one count of assisting a criminal.

On November 11, officers with the South Bend Police Department heard gunshots nearby as they were patrolling on Huey Street.

A Shotspotter alert also went out concerning gunfire in the 1300 block of Vassar Avenue.

When police got to the scene, they found 24-year-old Lawrence Witzke on a porch with others tending to him.

The suspect vehicle was described as a blue PT Cruiser.

The driver of the PT Cruiser, later identified as Martinez, got out of the driver's seat and allegedly ran from police, eventually scaling a roughly seven-foot fence as officers ordered him to stop.

Witnesses at the scene later picked Martinez as the shooter in a lineup.

One witness said he saw Martinez at a bar earlier that evening and spent time catching up with him, as the two were former co-workers.

At one point, Martinez went outside to take a call and left the wallet with the witness. Martinez returned briefly and said he had to go to a different bar, leaving the wallet behind.

The witness kept the wallet with him and said he intended to reach out to him when he got home and had cell service.

A little later, the witness's sister called and said she was with Martinez and that he was asking about his wallet.

The witness told Martinez he was holding it for him and to come to his home to get it.

Martinez eventually went to the witness's home on Vassar Avenue, got the wallet, and realized the cards were missing. Martinez reportedly asked the witness about the missing cards in an angry or accusatory tone.

The witness suggested they check for the cards in the vehicle he rode home in. The two went to the vehicle and found the cards on a seat.

After the witness gave Martinez the cards, Martinez allegedly punched the witness in the head, knocking him down and disorienting him.

One of the witness's roommates, identified as Lawrence Witzke, helped the witness back to their porch and told Martinez to leave.

Instead of leaving, Martinez came up onto the porch and struck the witness with something hard and/or metal, reports said.

Another roommate came onto the porch and told Martinez to leave.

Martinez then pulled out a black handgun and fired several shots, hitting Witzke.

Immediately after the shooting, a man came from the vehicle Martinez arrived in and said, "we have to go!" while pulling Martinez toward the vehicle.

Witnesses said the two men then left the scene.

Witzke was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

Officers near the South Bend Police station heard squealing tires northwest of their position and saw the Cruiser travel down Scott Street and then try to go through a construction area at United Drive.

The Cruiser traveled through a chain link fence and got stuck.

The passenger of the Cruiser, later identified as Kyle Johnson, immediately surrendered and complied with police.

Johnson repeatedly told officers he didn't know anything was going to happen.

He matched the description given by witnesses.

After a short chase, Martinez, the driver and only other occupant of the Cruiser, was taken into custody.

During a search warrant of the PT Cruiser, police found a handgun in the driver's area. This handgun had the same number of rounds missing from the magazine as were fired at the crime scene.

It's also the same caliber as the shell casings found at the scene.

The sentencing range for murder is 45 to 65 years. The sentencing range for battery resulting in moderate bodily injury is six months to two-and-a-half years. The sentencing range for resisting law enforcement is up to one year. The sentencing range for a firearm enhancement is five to 20 years.

The sentence ranging for assisting a criminal is one to six years.

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