Azania, Zolo (DOC #4969)

(DOC #4969)

Zolo Agona Azania, 63, has been discharged from parole after having completed his sentence in the line of duty death on August 11, 1981 of Lieutenant George Yaros of the Gary Police Department. Azania was formerly known as Rufus Lee Averhart until legally changing his name in 1991.

Azania was originally found guilty of murder and armed robbery in a change of venue from Lake County. On May 25, 1982, Allen Superior Judge Alfred W. Moellering sentenced Azania to death. His accomplices and co-defendants, Ralph Hutson and David North, were both sentenced to 60 years for murder and discharged after serving their sentences in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

In 1993, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed his conviction but overturned his death sentence. Upon a new jury recommendation, Azania was again sentenced to death by Allen Superior Judge Kenneth R. Scheibenberger on March 18, 1996, which the Indiana Supreme Court again overturned in 2002.

On remand, a motion to dismiss the death penalty by Azania was granted but reversed by the Indiana Supreme Court and on rehearing held that Azania must be re-sentenced under current death penalty statutes but without the availability of life without parole.

On October 17, 2008, Azania was sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement by Special Judge Robert R. Altice, Jr., to 60 years for murder and 14 years for armed robbery to be served consecutively. He was released on parole for one year on February 8, 2017.

Lieutenant Yaros, 57, was shot and killed responding to the Gary National Bank at 3680 Broadway in Gary where three suspects had just robbed of $13,000. Upon his arrival, he was shot by a 26-year-old suspect who shot him again at point-blank range as they got into their getaway car. The suspects crashed into a tree after a brief pursuit and gunbattle with police. The shooter, who fled on foot, was apprehended after bystanders reported him walking nearby.

Yaros had served with the department for nearly 29½ years. He was survived by his wife, son, two daughters and two grandchildren.

While serving in the United States Army as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, he landed in Normandy on D-Day. He was later wounded during the Battle of the Bulge and a recipient of a Purple Heart. While in a field hospital, he was captured by Nazi Germany soldiers and taken prisoner of war where he remained for over seven months.

He is the 10th officer of the Gary Police Department and one of the 52 law enforcement officers to be killed in the line of duty in Lake County. He is also the only officer killed in the state of Indiana who was known to have been a prisoner of war while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

There are currently 29 offenders awaiting trial, serving their sentences or on parole for their involvement in the line of duty deaths of 26 Indiana law enforcement officers.


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