ANDERSON — Judge Andrew Hopper denied a motion for a sentence modification on Tuesday that initially released a man early from an 85-year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit murder and murder as an accomplice.

Hopper then ordered Robert Lee Engram, 47, of Anderson, back into the custody of the Indiana Department of Correction to serve the more than 21 years remaining on his original sentence.

Engram was released from prison and placed in a community transition program Jan. 14, 2019, by Thomas Newman Jr., a former Madison County judge.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed Newman’s decision to modify Engram’s sentence and ordered the reinstatement of his original sentence that had a projected release date of Dec. 1, 2040.

Once a certified opinion from the Indiana Court of Appeals was presented to Hopper, who replaced Newman as judge for Circuit Court 3, the request for modification was denied.

Newman said the higher court made the correct decision to reverse his order.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals stated that modifying Engram’s release date, in effect, modified Engram’s sentence.

State law requires any motion for a sentence modification filed more than 365 days after a sentencing hearing requires the consent of the prosecuting attorney. Engram’s motion exceeded that date by about 18 years.

According to court records, Engram conspired with Edward Partlow to kill Michelle Jones on May 7, 2000. The men were searching for Devito Wilson, Jones’ former boyfriend, the night of her death.

Authorities say they found Jones at her apartment and Partlow aimed a gun at her head. Partlow said Engram indicated he should pull the trigger and he did, killing Jones.

Engram was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder; aiding, inducing, or causing murder. He was sentenced April 3, 2001, to an aggregate 85-year sentence.

On Aug. 2, 2018, Engram filed a petition for a sentence modification. The Indiana Department of Correction filed a report with the trial court indicating Engram had satisfied his sentence on his conspiracy conviction on June 1, 2013, and was currently serving the sentence related to his murder conviction.

The state objected to the request for a sentence modification, but Newman granted the petition.

Engram was booked back into the Madison County Jail at 1:57 a.m. June 14. He remained in the Madison County Jail until Hopper signed the order for him to return to prison on Tuesday.

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Staff writer

An ink slinging wordsmith with The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana. Writing about news that is changing people's lives. Have a news tip? Send it to traci.miller@heraldbulletin.com or call me at 765-640-4805.

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