Elizabethtown man to serve 50 years for 2022 Morgantown shooting


JOHNSON COUNTY — An Elizabethtown man will serve five decades in prison for the shooting of a man outside his Morgantown home last year.

Nicholas R. Saunders, 20, formerly of Morgantown, was sentenced Wednesday to 50 years in an Indiana Department of Correction Facility for attempted murder, a Level 1 felony, and two counts of pointing a firearm, a Level 6 felony, along with a use of a firearm enhancement. A jury found him guilty of the charges last month.

A Level 1 felony conviction carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years. A Level 6 felony conviction carries a sentence of 180 days to 2.5 years. Saunders was further exposed to potential additional five to 20 years as prosecutors sought a use of firearm enhancement for the attempt murder conviction, according a news release from the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office.

Prosecutors say that on Aug. 7, 2022, Saunders traveled to a Morgantown residence, pulled out a firearm and shot a man at least five times. Saunders pointed a firearm at the man’s wife as well before fleeing the scene.

Saunders was not alone that day, as he was joined by Miranda D. Lawson, 20, of Edinburgh, who knew the male victim. She has also been charged with attempted murder, along with aggravated battery, a Level 3 felony; two counts of pointing a firearm, a Level 6 felony; and false informing, a Class A misdemeanor. Her case is pending.

The shooting was investigated by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

After a jury found Saunders guilty on Feb. 28, he tried to escape the Johnson County Courthouse North Annex. Deputies chased after him, and he was rapidly running down the stairs when he rounded a corner and lost his balance, hit the wall and fell to the floor. He was then taken back into custody, court documents say.

Saunders left a large hole in the stairwell’s drywall where his body hit the wall when he lost his balance, court documents show.

He was charged with escape on March 1. This case is still pending.

No live testimony was heard at the sentencing Wednesday, but a pre-sentence investigation, character letters in support of Saunders, as well as recorded jail calls of Saunders were presented to Johnson Superior Court 2 Judge Peter Nugent before he gave the sentence. He also heard arguments from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Kubacki and defense counsel Max Wiley, the news release said.

Kubacki argued that Saunders crimes involved extreme violence and that he demonstrated a lack of remorse for his actions. In a jail call to an outside recipient, Saunders said he regretted not assaulting Kubacki, who prosecuted his case, according to the news release.

Ultimately, Nugent sentenced Saunders to 50 years — 36 years on the attempted murder and another 14 years on the firearm enhancement. Nugent told Saunders his sentence is based upon his “act first, think later” attitude in conjunction with the seriousness of his actions in shooting the victim at least five, if not more, times, the news release said.

“Saunders’ actions during and after the crime, as well as his actions following the verdict … make clear his short fuse, propensity for acting violent first and lack of respect for authority which are a dangerous mix,” Kubacki said in a statement after the sentencing.

People like Saunders, who shot a man “five times over a minor dispute he was not even involved in to begin with” in front of the victim’s wife, need to be removed from society, said Lance Hamner, Johnson County prosecutor. It is why there are prisons and jails, he said in a statement.

“I’m very pleased that Judge Nugent imposed this strong sentence,” Hamner said. “Five decades in a six-by-eight-foot steel cage sends a powerful message to out-of-town criminals to stay away from Johnson County. Don’t even come near that line.”

Saunders has also been charged with attempted murder in Monroe County in an unrelated case. During the investigation of the Morgantown shooting, sheriff’s deputies uncovered evidence that led them to contact Bloomington Police about a July 11, 2022, shooting.

In the Bloomington shooting, prosecutors say a man was walking and had stopped at a stoplight when the occupants of a silver sedan called him a name. The man approached the vehicle and began speaking Spanish to them, asking how they were doing, according to court documents.

As the man walked up to the driver’s side window, the driver raised a silver handgun and fired, hitting him in the chest. The vehicle then drove northbound, fleeing the scene. Saunders is believed to be the gunman, court documents show.

The Bloomington case is pending.