A jury convicted a Terre Haute man Friday of the 1992 murder and robbery of cab driver Jerry L. Need.

William Allsup Jr., 34, was found guilty of one count of murder, one count of felony murder (murder occurring during commission of a felony), and one count of robbery resulting in serious bodily injury.

Need, 55, was killed by a shotgun blast to the neck on the evening of Dec. 23, 1992 in Gaslight Estates Mobile Home Park, just off Springhill Road, south of Terre Haute.

After a little more than five hours of deliberations Friday, the jury returned its verdict to Judge David Bolk.

More than 20 supporters of Allsup waited in the courtroom before the verdict, sharing nervous glances and encouragement. When the guilty verdicts were read, Allsup’s wife, Jammie, began sobbing, leaning into family members for support.

As deputies handcuffed the stunned Allsup, his family gathered around him for hugs.

Allsup’s young son, Trey, who just a few moments earlier had been sitting with his dad in the atrium of the court house, sharing a milkshake, laughing and hugging, shared his father’s stunned expression after the verdict.

A female family member, speaking to the boy, said, “Tell your daddy bye, baby.”

The family of Jerry Need, standing on the other side of the courtroom, remained standing where they had observed the entire trial, showing little expression. Members of the Need family declined to comment on the outcome.

During closing arguments Friday morning, Deputy Prosecutor William Earls stated that in relying on convicted armed robber Lamar Perry to prove its case, the prosecutor’s office “had to make a deal with the devil.”

“We knew who Jerry Need’s killers were … we made the deal with Perry because we knew,” Earls added.

Perry told the court during his testimony that he and Allsup were friends at the time and that they had planned the robbery together. Allsup, who did not testify during his trial, was convicted in 1993 of the robbery of a pizza deliveryman, along with Perry. The facts of that case closely resembled the robbery of Need, but information about the conviction was not available to the jury.

Perry, who pleaded guilty in a plea agreement last week to robbery in the Need case, testified against Allsup. By terms of the agreement, prosecutors dropped a felony murder charge against Perry. He is expected to receive a sentence of 40 years, which will run at the same time as a 50-year sentence he is serving in California for six counts of armed robbery. Perry’s earliest date of release is 2030.

Defense attorney Dr. Michael Rader told jurors during his closing argument that investigators saw what they wanted to see, and believed what they wanted to believe. He said the prosecution “cherry-picked” only the evidence consistent with a pre-formed theory of the case, ignoring inconsistent evidence.

Rader added that Perry’s testimony contained inconsistencies, including contradictory statements of who owned the .20-gauge shotgun that killed Need and confusing details about where Perry’s car allegedly was in relation to the taxicab that night in the trailer park. Rader called Perry’s account of the robbery “a hare-brained story that makes no sense.”

Throughout the weeklong proceedings, several witnesses for the defense and prosecution had described another individual or individuals who did not match Allsup’s description, either in the same car as Perry that night, or driving the taxicab out of the trailer park. Vigo County Coroner and forensic pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr testified that the lack of blood on the interior of the cab made it “extremely unlikely” that Need was shot inside the cab, as Perry claimed.

Rader said his client plans to appeal, “but for now we’ve got to prepare for sentencing.”

Allsup will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 9 in Vigo County Superior Court Division 3. The maximum sentence for murder is 65 years, while the robbery conviction could carry up to 50 years.

Deb McKee can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or deb.mckee@tribstar.com.

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