Teen Sentenced To 20 Years For Role In Murder Plot

(BLOOMFIELD, Ind., July 29th, 2003, 9:30 a.m.) -- A teenage girl who said a friend's mother paid her to kill the woman's husband has been sentenced to 20 years for the crime.

Melissa Zitterman, 16, of Linton in southern Indiana, would be eligible for parole in about 10 years. She would be on probation for another 10 years after she is released.

"As I sit here, I can't get a handle on why you were ever in this situation," Greene Circuit Judge David Johnson told the girl Monday before sentencing her for conspiracy to commit murder.

"And that's something that will haunt you the rest of your life," he said. "You can't explain it to yourself, me or anybody else."

Investigators say Zitterman shot Ronald Tomich, 51, twice in the head on Feb. 14 at his home in White's Crossing, about 40 miles west of Bloomington. Zitterman testified that Constance Tomich paid her a total of $180 to shoot her husband.

About a dozen relatives watched and wept as Zitterman, in ponytails and handcuffs, was led out of the courtroom.

"I was shocked," said her stepfather, Kenneth Harden. "I didn't believe it and I still really don't. I'm still beside myself."

Prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Zitterman in exchange for her testimony against Constance Tomich and a teenage boy charged in the death.

Zitterman testified that Constance Tomich and her 15-year-old daughter wanted Ronald Tomich dead because they were upset over his punishment of the girl.

Zitterman said Constance Tomich also feared her husband would obtain custody of the couple's 4-year-old daughter if she divorced him.

Constance Tomich, 35, is being held in Morgan County Jail on charges of aiding in murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Her daughter received immunity from prosecutors in exchange for her testimony.

Aaron I. Bixler, 16, who was charged as a juvenile in March with conspiracy to commit murder, was scheduled to appear in court later this week.

Prosecutors say Bixler drove Zitterman and his girlfriend, the Tomichs' daughter, to the Tomich home on the day of the shooting.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)