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'Purge' killer Johnathan Cruz receives three consecutive life sentences

Posted at 6:58 AM, May 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-11 20:23:59-04

INDIANAPOLIS - An Indianapolis man has received three consecutive life sentences in prison for killing three people over four days last spring in attacks that authorities say he justified by citing the horror movie, "The Purge."

A Marion County judge formally sentenced 20-year-old Johnathan Cruz on Wednesday. Cruz pleaded guilty last month to three counts of murder. Prosecutors dropped plans to seek the death penalty.

Cruz was charged with fatally shooting three men during attacks on the city's east and north sides. Detectives say a witness told them Cruz confessed he'd been "purging" by shooting and robbing people, referring to the 2013 movie with a plot about violent crime, including murder, being legal one night each year.

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Between May 12-15, 2016, prosecutors say Cruz killed Billy Boyd, Jay Higginbotham and Jose Alberto.

RELATED | What is a 'purge,' and are they actually happening in real life? | Prosecutor: Three killed in man's four-day "Purge" across Indianapolis

Police recovered a number of text messages from Cruz's cellphone. In one, Cruz allegedly says, "I Purge every night now … since im dieing (sic) someone else Has to."

His girlfriend, Angela Barger, defended him after an initial court appearance.

"He's not evil like they're making him out to be," Barger said. "He's fun. Not violent."

MORE | Girlfriend defends man charged with going on 4-day 'Purge' in Indy

"As we describe the homicides which are occurring in our city, we frequently sound like a broken record when we describe these murders as "senseless," Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said at the time. "But the killings that have occurred here are beyond senseless."