|Caudill gets 85-year sentence for murdering shop owner; girlfriend Ginger Cox receives 35 years|
After a hearing in Scott Circuit Court that lasted most of the day on Thursday, August 11, James Matthew “Matt” Caudill, 22, learned he was going to be spending at least 64 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
Caudill was the man who shot John Turner, 78, once in the head on November 7, 2015, while visiting Turner’s jewelry and coin shop in Austin’s downtown area. He then left the wounded Turner on the floor, grabbing jewelry, coins and cash and leaving. He got back into his mother’s mini-van parked curbside and told his girlfriend, Ginger Lee Cox, “I killed him. I shot a man.”
Caudill’s actions that afternoon took less than ten minutes. His sentencing hearing less than a year later took nearly six hours. His punishment will last his lifetime.
Caudill had entered into a “blind” plea agreement late in July on the murder charge as well as Level 5 felony robbery and an enhancement of use of a firearm. At the sentencing hearing before Judge Roger Duvall, Caudill arrived handcuffed and shackled at his ankles and sporting a shaggy chin beard and neatly-combed hair. He stared at Prosecutor Jason Mount and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Chris Owens as they carried in boxes of documents and prepared video monitors.
The defendant was represented during the proceedings by his public defender, Mark Wynn of Madison. Wynn too had boxes of documents brought to the courthouse but did not refer to them. Rather, the State’s pieces of evidence handed to Wynn by Mount as they were introduced occupied the defense attorney that day. He raised no objections to a number of photos presented by the prosecutor throughout the day.
Those seats in the audience reserved to the sitting judge’s right for the prosecution’s witnesses were packed with Turner relatives and friends. John Turner’s wife, Reva, was present as were her daughters, Bonnie and Sheila. Both daughters later gave heart-wrenching statements about the effect the loss of their father has had on his family and the community.
To the judge’s left were benches traditionally used by the defendant’s supporters. Caudill’s mother and aunt stayed throughout the hearing with other friends and relatives leaving and returning.
Prosecutor Mount used the sentencing as an opportunity to introduce evidence and testimony that would have been used in the trial. Joey Higdon, a probation officer assigned to Caudill, was Mount’s first witness, relating Caudill’s criminal record. That record included two crimes committed while he was on an earlier probation period.
Scottsburg Patrolman Greg Green, then an Austin policeman, offered information about a methamphetamine dealing arrest he had made involving Caudill.
A young woman who was held up at gunpoint while working at the Austin Fuel Mart in October, 2015, Taylor Waller, went through that experience with the prosecutor. Caudill was later charged with that crime.
Steven Tye, a paramedic with Scott County EMS, recalled how he and his partner received the call to go to John Turner’s shop on West Main Street on November 7, 2015, to aid a man who was an apparent heart attack victim. Tye said the man, Turner, had a head wound which was still bleeding and a weak pulse. The victim was made a priority because of his condition, with the two paramedics working to stabilize him during the brief ride to Scott Memorial Hospital. Resuscitation attempts began just north of the hospital. Turner was later declared dead by Deputy Coroner Chris Fugate.
Fugate’s observance that brain matter was on one of the towels wrapped around the victim’s head led to the discovery that Turner had not suffered a heart attack and fallen, hurting his head. The bullet which killed Turner was recovered from his skull during an autopsy conducted the following Monday morning at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Louisville.
By that time, a shell casing had been recovered from the crime scene, and Indiana State Police were pouring over footage from a security camera mounted outside the shop. According to ISP Detective Brian Busick, Caudill was “developed” as a suspect from that footage, which had recorded his three visits to the shop that Saturday. Ginger Cox had accompanied Caudill on two of those visits but stayed in the van during the last one.
In fact, officers stopped Caudill’s older brother, Chris, as Chris Caudill drove the mini-van in Austin later that day. By late that afternoon, a warrant for Matt Caudill’s arrest had been issued.
Det. Busick said he was with the officers who served the warrant at the family residence on Water Tower Road. Neither of the brothers was in the house. The detective said in his testimony that Thursday that he had stepped further into the back yard and nearly ran into the brothers as they were returning from a patch of woods. He managed to handcuff Chris Caudill but had to keep his gun aimed at Matt Caudill.
He soon saw why. The younger Caudill had a handgun and tried to hide it under fallen leaves. The gun proved to be the murder weapon.
Officers recovered cash, jewelry and coins from a cache the brothers had made in the woods. Two other friends were also found to have stolen items in their possession. The Caudill brothers and Ginger Cox were all transported to the Scott County Security Center and have been behind bars since.
After the Turner sisters had spoken, Caudill read from a hastily-written note that he was sorry for his actions.
According to a pre-sentence investigation report submitted to the court in the Caudill case, several aggravating circumstances were present, but no mitigating factors were listed. In his closing statement to the court, Prosecutor Mount described John Turner as “....a leader in his own household, in his family and his church. He was this family’s patriarch and the center of his extended
He asked Judge Duvall to give Caudill the maximum sentence, a total of 85 years.
Judge Duvall paused proceedings after a statement by Caudill’s attorney, coming back in about 15 minutes.
The victim’s age is an aggravating factor, said Judge Duvall, as is the defendant’s continued criminal behavior and his repeated violations of parole.
“We acknowledge Mr. Caudill has pleaded guilty, saving the state considerable time and expense and sparing the family the experience of going through a trial. But the manner in which this crime was committed; it was planned, premeditated, a cold-blooded act. I have no idea how long this idea had been in your head, but you had several hours to consider the right and the wrong of it. You obtained the gun and ammunition. You entered the shop three times. You attached a pop bottle to the gun to lessen the noise. (The shooting) was a purely gratuitous act done to eliminate a witness. That speaks volumes,” stated Judge Duvall.
The judge rendered his verdict: 65 years on the murder count and six years on the robbery. Those will be served concurrently. The weapon enhancement added another 20 years; thus, the total sentence is 85 years for the 22-year-old.
Under Indiana law, Caudill will serve at least 75% of his sentence or about 64 years before becoming eligible for parole.
According to his attorney, Caudill plans to appeal his sentence. Wynn declined to represent him in that effort. The notice to appeal must be filed within 30 days of his sentencing.
His girlfriend, Ginger Cox, received a sentence on Monday, August 15, totaling 35 years for her part in the murder. She had originally been scheduled for sentencing on September 20 but petitioned to be sentenced earlier.
At Cox’s sentencing, Sheila Turner Carter thanked the young woman for her cooperation with authorities in building the case against Matt Caudill.
Cox, 23, will also be eligible for parole after serving 75% of those 35 years, or 26 years, but she was also allowed by the court to reserve the right to petition for a sentence modification after satisfactorily serving 16 years.