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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Tahj Thomas

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 1:55 am

Teen who admitted Craigslist robberies also admits rapes

JEFF WIEHE | The Journal Gazette

He's already serving 50 years in prison for robbing people he'd lure through Craigslist with the promise of sweet deals on electronics.

Now, a 19-year-old named Tahj Thomas is looking at even more decades in prison. 

The Michigan City man admitted to raping a woman he attacked outside her apartment complex on the southeast side last year and pleaded guilty to several felony counts in Allen Superior Court today. 

As part of a plea agreement with Allen County Prosecutors, Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of rape and a count of robbery. If a judge accepts the plea deal at Thomas' sentencing hearing in late August, the teen could receive up to 35 years in prison.  

But whatever sentence he receives, it will run consecutive to the 50 years he was given for a string of robberies in 2014. Those robberies played out more or less the same, according to court documents: 

Thomas would post an enticing ad showcasing a video game system on Craigslist and when a purchaser would show up with cash in hand, the teen would put a gun to the buyer's head. One victim who spoke in court earlier this year about Thomas said the teen screamed and threatened to kill him.

Police arrested Thomas after setting up surveillance in the area of the robberies. Months after his arrest, he pleaded guilty to five counts of robbery and received 10 years in prison for each count, all to be run one after the other. 

Upon entering prison, some of his DNA was collected and entered into a database, which is standard protocol for the Indiana Department of Correction. Two months later, investigators found his DNA matched a sample taken from a rape that occurred at about the same time as the Craigslist robberies. 

His target in that rape was a woman who arrived home and parked her car in the lot of her apartment complex one April morning at about 12:20 a.m. 

According to court documents, as the woman walked to the other side of the car to get her 4-year-old daughter out, a man appeared and pointed a gun at her. He told her to give her all that she had as another man holding a shotgun also made his presence known. 

The two men ordered the woman to move two cars away from her own, then forced her to strip, crawl across the ground and perform a sex act on one of them. That man also had sex with her after threatening to kill her, according to court documents. 

When one of the men caught a glimpse of her diamond engagement ring, they stole that along with her purse, credit credit cards and cellphone before running off. The woman then grabbed her daughter, ran into her home and called police. 

In a letter to his public defender dated June 24, Thomas wrote: "I'm young. I'll do anything to at least get no more than 20 to 30 years." 

He also claimed he did not use a weapon during the rape and that drug issues played a part in his behavior. 

"I was homeless and during this situation I was high off pills and heroin," Thomas wrote. "but I stand as a man in (sic) admit my doings." 

jeffwiehe@jg.net