FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2015


Media Contact: Curtis T. Hill, Jr. (574) 296-1888

At the time of the murder of Ontario Brown, Jr., age 16, of Elkhart, in the Washington Gardens apartment complex in December of 2014, a small number of citizens were willing to step forward and help police solve the crime.

Prior to the December shooting, Keenan Mardis, 16, of Chicago, had been staying in the Elkhart area, moving from place to place with friends. Additional evidence presented outside the presence of the jury demonstrated that animosity between Mardis and his friends, who considered anyone not part of their group to be "Ops", or "opposite" of them and therefore enemies, escalated a situation that began as a fist fight.

The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that once the brief physical fight was over, Ontario Brown began to leave along with one friend. As Brown was leaving, Mardis demanded he relinquish his designer belt. When Brown refused, Mardis pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot Brown in the head. Mardis and his friends then fled the area, leaving Ontario Brown, Jr. dying in the street while his friend stood by.

That friend stood up for Ontario Brown and cooperated with police and the State of Indiana. He and another witness also in the area came forward and testified as to the events which occurred that evening. Following a trial that began on August 17, 2015 in Elkhart County Circuit Court, the jury found Mardis guilty of Murder.

Following Ontario Brown's homicide, two of Mardis' close associates have also been convicted of felony level weapons charges. Dondre Slater is currently in the Indiana Department of Correction following a conviction for Criminal Recklessness with a Deadly Weapon, and on September 10, 2015 Zirei Jackson pled guilty to Dangerous Possession of a Firearm. In a related shooting, Jwan Hardin, a rival of Mardis' associates, entered a plea of guilty for the murder of 14 year old Dezjuan Sanders which occurred in May 2015.

During the sentencing hearing, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Vicki Becker argued that Mardis has continuously rejected authority, parental assistance, and supervision, as demonstrated by his expulsion from school for fighting and use of marijuana since the age of 12; and he instead chose life on the streets. His callous disregard for the life of Ontario Brown, and the safety of Washington Gardens’ residents, has resulted in a sentence of 58 years at the Indiana Department of Correction.


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