Suspects in the shooting death of Bill A. Reynolds, 69, on Sunday, September 27, were quickly and quietly arraigned in Scott Circuit Court late Monday morning, October 5.
With Judge Roger Duvall presiding, each of the defendants – Johnetta Ruth Hall, 42, of Lexington, and Kerry Ray Heald, 22, and Jacob Wayne Mathis, 21, both of Clarksville – learned they have been charged with felony murder, Level 1 felony conspiracy to commit murder and Level 6 felony obstruction of justice.
Neither Hall nor Heald appeared with attorneys, and they will be provided with public defenders. Mathis was accompanied by Stephen Beardsley of New Albany, but Beardsley declined to enter an oral appearance during Mathis' initial hearing, requesting that the court allow some time to do so. Judge Duvall set a review hearing for Mathis on Tuesday, October 13, on the matter of him hiring counsel.
Accompanied by several officers, including Sheriff Dan McClain and Detective Rick Barrett, the trio was brought to the courtroom separate of other defendants who had scheduled appearances. Soon after the defendants being seated, Beardsley arrived to talk to Mathis and was allowed to confer with the young man in a guarded jury room while Hall and Heald waited quietly, both facing the judge's bench in the courtroom's jury box.
All of the defendants were wearing black-and-white striped jumpsuits. Heald, the alleged shooter, is six feet in height with curly dark hair. His friend, Mathis, has a short, wiry build, blondish hair worn long and a beard. He was wearing glasses. Hall is a slightly-built woman and has driven trucks professionally for five years, she stated in court.
Judge Duvall arrived during this private conference and opened the proceedings in court by first advising Hall and Heald of their rights. He then turned his attention to Hall, advising her of the charges and two enhancements filed against her.
As in the cases against Heald and Mathis, Prosecutor Jason Mount has filed a Notice of the State's Intention to seek a life sentence without parole, the first enhancement, and a motion for an additional penalty for the use of a firearm in the death of Reynolds on September 27, the second enhancement.
The three are accused of conspiring to end Reynolds' life. The Scott County resident was shot as he stood at the gate of his property on Slate Ford Road in southeastern Scott County around 1:45 p.m. that Sunday. His body was found by neighbors about 45 minutes later.
Through a search of local court records, it was learned that Reynolds had filed in June for a divorce from Hall's mother, Dalene Cates, whom he had been married a couple of years ago.
Reportedly, Cates would not leave the residence on Slate Ford Rd. until notified that a contempt citation had been filed against her in Scott Superior Court on September 23 because of her alleged inaction. She reportedly then left the house within a few days.
Reynolds had been at the house to see what repairs were needed and to start cleaning it that Sunday he was shot. He had recently learned that his cancer was in remission but used a cane to walk because he was still recovering his strength from that medical ordeal.
Purportedly, Hall had discussed killing Reynolds with Heald and Mathis, according to statements obtained from the two Clarksville men. She also allegedly provided a loaded handgun for them to use.
According to statements taken from the men, they made arrangements for being compensated by Hall for killing Reynolds. The pair drove to Slate Ford Road that Sunday in Mathis' vehicle. Heald allegedly shot the man, leaving his body by the gate, though Mathis said his original purpose in the crime was “...to help dispose of the body,” the affidavit related.
They then drove to storage rental units in Austin, where Hall met them, the affidavit noted. A surveillance tape purportedly shows the trio taking items, reportedly NASCAR memorabilia and collectibles, from the rental unit and putting them in Mathis' vehicle. Heald can also allegedly be seen removing an item wrapped in a dark cloth from the pair's car and putting it in Hall's vehicle. The vehicles then leave the rental unit business.
The obstruction of justice charge is based on Heald's alleged action of returning the murder weapon, a .38 caliber handgun, to Hall.
Through questioning by Judge Duvall, Heald related that he was still on probation for a marijuana dealing Class C felony charge in Floyd County. A check of court records revealed he had been sentenced to three years in August, 2013, for that charge, but had been released after serving a year.
No bail was set for any of the defendants that morning due to the nature of the charges against them.
Judge Duvall set a pre-trial hearing in each of the defendants' cases for 9 a.m. on Monday, November 30. Each defendant has an initial jury trial date of March 7, 2016.
Under Indiana's revised criminal code, murder has a sentence of from 45 to 65 years with a presumed sentence of 55 years; the Level 1 felony has a presumed sentence of from 20 to 40 years with a presumed sentence of 30 years; and the Level 6 felony has a sentence of from six months to 2½ years, with a presumed sentence of one year.
In other related court action, Hall's mother was charged with a Class A misdemeanor count of resisting law enforcement on October 1.
Reportedly, when Det. Barrett and Indiana State Police Detective Brian Busick arrived at the East Polk Road residence to take Hall in for questioning on September 29, Cates attempted to interfere, placing her body between Det. Busick and Hall. She was allegedly trying to prevent the officer from handcuffing Hall.
Cates has entered a not guilty plea to the charge in Scott Superior Court and was released the same day, October 1, after filing a $1,000 cash bond.
Her trial date on the misdemeanor has been scheduled for November 19.