Second defendant in custody, awaiting initial hearing in June in death of Hobart man at Portage Township pond

By | December 20, 2023

The second defendant in the June murder of a Hobart man found at a Portage Township fishing pond in June is in custody after being transferred from a jail in Hamilton County, Ohio.

Jada Monroe, 29, of Danville, Virginia, was booked into the Porter County Jail around 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to a roster, on two counts of murder and one count of robbery, also a misdemeanor.

According to the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office, charging documents for Monroe are expected to remain sealed until his initial hearing; which had not yet been planned on Wednesday morning.

Monroe, who also goes by Jawon Martin, and Domonic Brothers, 28, of Gary, who faces the same charges and also goes by Domonic Weaver, allegedly met Derek Hartz, 35, on a gay dating app, according to documents in the case by Brothers .

Brothers has been in custody since July 26 and has pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled for a status conference on Feb. 9 before Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer.

Hartz’s partially nude body was found by a fisherman on a deflated air mattress at the Chustak Salt Creek fishing area at 331 West County Road 600 North on June 13 around 10:30 a.m., according to court documents. He was wearing a blood-soaked white T-shirt and had multiple stab and blunt trauma wounds to his head and chest, with his clothes next to him.

Police in Cincinnati arrested the pair hours after Hartz’s death after they followed a police chase there and crashed the car Hartz shared with his mother, police said.

According to charging documents in Brothers’ case, Hartz met Brothers and Martin through a gay dating app. Investigators found the app on Martin’s cellphone, as well as messages with Hartz from Brothers and Martin.

The couple arranged for Hartz to pick them up at the home in Gary’s Aetna neighborhood, where Brothers and Martin lived, for “a consensual sexual encounter,” according to the documents. Before Hartz arrived, the two collected a butcher knife and a garden stone from the home and hid them in a pink bag.

In police interviews, Brothers and Martin said they “intended to leave the state but did not have transportation or finances to travel prior to this date. It was indicated that a ‘plan’ had been developed prior to Derek’s arrival,” according to court records.

Hartz began communicating on the afternoon of June 12 using an account called “There are two of us,” according to data downloaded from the dating app on Martin’s phone, the documents state. The thread contains a message to Hartz saying, “You want to have some fun with us.”

Hartz responded that he was busy, but resumed the conversation at 4:03 a.m. on June 13 and the duo responded at 6:25 a.m., when Hartz arranged to pick them up at the home in Gary.

Hartz arrived to pick up the two in a white Volkswagen he shared with his mother and they drove to the fishing pond in Portage Township.

“There was sexual activity and during the contact, Derek was hit with the rock and stabbed multiple times with the knife,” the documents said. Brothers and Martin “then left Derek’s body on the trail in the wooded area and drove away in his vehicle. It was indicated that Derek was clearly deceased after the attack.”

Police used pings from Hartz’s cellphone and later Martin’s and license plate readers in Lake and Porter counties to track their travels through the region before heading east, when investigators tracked them on eastbound Interstate 94 near Hartford, Michigan , and later on southbound Interstate 75 between Dayton and Cincinnati in Ohio.

In a photo from a license plate reader at 9:41 a.m. June 13 at Indiana 130 and Lake County Line Road as the Volkswagen was traveling westbound, it is clear that “there are two individuals in the vehicle,” the documents said.

Police spoke with roommates of Martin and Brothers, who confirmed that the two were in possession of a white passenger car that they had never seen before. The two lived together in one bedroom “and were heard to be frantically packing around 10am. Both Domonic and Jada packed up all their belongings and told their roommates they were moving out,” the documents state.

The pair “made multiple stops before leaving the state,” the documents state. Martin owned a gold fanny pack that they realized they had left at the fishing pond. “They drove back to the scene, observed law enforcement vehicles and immediately left the area.”

The murder weapons were also taken from the scene in the same pink bag.

Hartz’s mother told police she went to bed around 4:30 a.m. on June 13 and Hartz was in his room playing video games. When she woke up, he had left a note saying he was going to a friend’s house and taking the Volkswagen they shared.

She texted him three times between 9:45 a.m. and 10:59 a.m. with no response, the documents state. At 11:23 a.m., she received a response that said, “I’ll be right there,” after the time his body was discovered, according to the complaint.

“The phone responded four more times with the same message” before she threatened to contact police and at 12:01 p.m. she registered her vehicle as stolen.

Police later recovered Hartz’s phone near 61st Avenue and Interstate 65.

alavalley@chicagotribune.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *