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On June 3, 2015, after deliberating only 35 minutes, an Elkhart Superior Court 2 jury found Akheem “Bama” Purnell, 21, of Elkhart, guilty of Burglary While Armed With a Deadly Weapon, a Level 2 felony, and Robbery While Armed With a Deadly Weapon, a Level 3 felony.

Purnell was charged with both offenses after he and other individuals participated in a terrifying home invasion burglary/robbery in January of 2015. At approximately 6:30 p.m. on January 13, 2015, three women and five minor children were all inside a home on 6th Street near downtown Elkhart. The homeowner heard a knock at her front door. When all three women went to the front door to see who was knocking, someone kicked in the front door and a group of men rushed into the home. All three women said that there were approximately ten men, and almost every one of them had a gun. Two of the women and all five minor children were ordered to the ground and held at gunpoint while the perpetrators went through the house. The homeowner was able to run out her back door just after the men entered her home. She ran to a neighbor’s house, barefoot in the snow, and called 911.

One of the victims, S.B., was held at gunpoint on a couch. The man who was holding her at gunpoint had a bandana over the majority of his face, concealing his identity. Unfortunately for him, though, the bandana fell off of his face and the victim immediately recognized the perpetrator as her long-time acquaintance, Akheem “Bama” Purnell. When S.B. asked Purnell why he was doing this, she was ordered not to say his name, was hit in the head with a gun by another perpetrator, and was told to shut up.

The men left the house with a bag full of Nike shoes, S.B.’s money, and the homeowner’s cellular telephone and car keys. None of those items have been recovered by the police. Officers arrived just minutes after the perpetrators left. Purnell was arrested a few days later.

At trial, all three women testified, explaining the scary sequence of events that unfolded. S.B. testified that she was 100 percent certain that it was Purnell who held her at gunpoint. According to S.B., she went to school with Purnell, was friends with him and his family, and had known him for over ten years. S.B. testified that shortly after the robbery/burglary, Purnell wrote her a message on Facebook telling her that she was not supposed to be in the house, and that he would give her belongings back to her the next day. S.B. also testified that she called Purnell and he repeated that she (S.B.) was not supposed to be in the house when he and the other men committed the crime.

The State of Indiana was represented by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Eric Ditton who played the homeowner’s 911 call, introduced the Facebook messages between S.B. and Purnell, and called each of the female victims to the stand to testify. Purnell, who did not testify in his defense or call any witnesses, was represented by a public defender who argued that Purnell simply was not involved in the crime. The jury, however, did not buy the argument and found Purnell guilty after only 35 minutes.

Purnell is scheduled to be sentenced on July 6, 2015 in Superior Court 2.


“Under Indiana law, all persons arrested for a criminal offense are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”