FRANKLIN, Ind. (Daily Journal) — After hearing from multiple family members about the impact of losing a father, son, co-worker and friend, a judge handed down a 35-year sentence to the romantic rival convicted of killing a Center Grove area man.
Joseph Evan Avart, 38, of Plainfield, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and burglary resulting in serious bodily injury in the 2016 death of Andrew “Drew” Perry.
Avart was arrested last year, days after Perry was found dead in his Center Grove area home. Investigators later determined that both Avart and Perry had been involved with the same woman, and Avart had gone to Perry’s home, shot him and killed him.
During his sentencing hearing Monday, Avart tearfully apologized to Perry’s family and friends.
“I can never apologize enough to all of you for what I’ve done to you. There aren’t words to describe how you must feel,” Avart said.
“I can’t sit here and ask your forgiveness, all I can say is I’m sorry.”
Avart told the court about the relationship he had with a woman that Perry was also dating and the deceit and lies that he said led up to the day he shot and killed Perry. He told police the woman had at one point moved in with him, but after they went on vacation last fall, she decided she needed time to herself and moved out. Avart said he learned she was also seeing Perry, and that she would text him about her concerns in her relationship with Perry.
On Dec. 2, 2016, Avart went to Perry’s home in the Stone Village neighborhood, off Stones Crossing Road, and said he wanted to talk to him. The tension between the two men had been building, and Avart said he couldn’t sleep and wanted to have a discussion with Perry.
He wanted to tell Perry what the woman had been telling him, and he wanted to ask what she had been saying to Perry about him.
During that conversation, Avart showed Perry some text messages, and said Perry became upset. Avart said he had been told Perry had a bad temper, and that he was angry and hostile toward Avart. So when Perry came toward him, Avart said he was scared and pulled out his gun and shot him.
“I got scared and I shot him. I have no justification for it,” Avart said.
But prosecutors pointed to other evidence in the case that they said showed Avart had planned the shooting.
In the days leading up to the shooting, Avart had driven by Perry’s home multiple times and followed him at least once. He had been sending text messages to the woman both men were seeing from another number, telling her he knew what she was doing. He had asked a friend how to turn off GPS tracking on his vehicle and cellphone. And he had gotten a bag with what appeared to be drugs that were left at the home after Avart was killed, deputy prosecutor Shaina Carmichael said.
On that morning, Avart parked a couple streets away from Perry’s home, she said. He walked into the home after knocking on the door into the home from inside the garage. He had been there for 10 to 15 minutes when the shooting happened, he said.
Avart said he had not meant for the fake drugs to come out of his pocket at the shooting scene, but that they must have fallen out when he knelt down to check on Perry after the shooting. But he said he had gone through a cabinet in the kitchen to make it look like a burglary had happened.
He then left Perry’s house, went back home and put his gun under his bed and began talking with the woman again. He also threw a shell casing out the vehicle window on his drive home, Carmichael said.
Two weeks after Perry was killed, police arrested Avart and he has remained in the Johnson County jail since then.
Family members asked Johnson Circuit Judge Mark Loyd to give Avart the maximum sentence in Perry’s death.
“To you, Drew was a challenge. To so many others, he was a solution,” his brother Rob Perry said to Avart.
“I pray the pain you have caused weighs heavily on you.”
Perry’s mother, Alice Perry, described going to her son’s house and finding his body that morning after he hadn’t dropped his dog off and she went to check on him. She had expected to find him in the shower, or helping his son get ready, but instead she found him in a pool of blood on the floor, a terrorizing scene she still wakes up and relives, she said.
John Perry described all the people his son had touched, from his co-workers at Excel Event Decorators, to his son’s teammates and coaches on the Circle City Rollers power wheelchair soccer team, to his son, his family and his friends.
“There are no words to describe our grief,” John Perry said.
“We miss him very deeply, every single day.”
Loyd told the family, under the circumstances of the case, he legally couldn’t sentence Avart to the maximum amount.
“Nothing within my power allows me to ease your pain,” Loyd said.
An overreaction by Loyd, sentencing Avart to longer than the law intends, would almost certainly send the case into appeals court, making the family have to relive the criminal case all over again, he said. He also had to consider the fact that Avart had no prior criminal history, and the request from Avart’s attorney to consider the impact a long prison sentence would have on Avart’s daughter.
And while what Avart did was the worst Perry’s family had experienced, it isn’t the worst Loyd has seen in his decades on the bench, he said.
Loyd told Avart he hopes to see him rehabilitated and continuing to come to grips with what he had done, and that a modification of his sentence could be considered in the future depending on how he does in prison.