The machinations of a heinous plan to end of the life of an elderly man were recounted by Jacob Wayne Mathis, one of the young defendants in the Bill Albert Reynolds murder.
Reynolds, 69, died on September 27, 2015, after being shot once while standing at the gate of the house he owned on Slate Ford Road southeast of Scottsburg. He was allegedly shot by Kerry Ray Heald, now 23, who, along with Mathis, was purportedly hired to kill Reynolds, authorities contend.
Also named in the murder conspiracy were Johnetta Ruth Hall, 43, and her daughter, Amaris Rose Bunyard, now 20. Hall is the person who hired the two young men, according to court documents. Bunyard participated by obtaining the gun from her mother and handing it to Heald.
Mathis, now 22, has, through his attorney Steven Beardsley, entered a guilty plea to count 2 conspiracy to commit murder, a Level 1 felony. In a hearing held Tuesday, September 13, in Scott Circuit Court, Mathis was asked a series of questions by Prosecutor Jason Mount. Those questions gave the deceased man's two sons and other listeners a vivid picture of what Mathis said happened over some four to five weeks that led up to the fatal shooting of Reynolds.
Mathis said he and Heald had developed a friendship over a year or so that led to the pair becoming roommates in a Clarksville apartment complex. Heald apparently called Mathis “Little Brother” when they communicated. Heald dated Bunyard and also apparently took the lead in getting himself and Mathis hired to kill Reynolds.
Reynolds reportedly had a continuing feud with Hall over the Slate Ford Road residence. About five or six weeks or so before the murder occurred, Mathis said he and Heald helped the woman move some personal property out of the house. That was the first time he met Reynolds, who was recovering from cancer treatments.
Mathis also recalled arriving at Bunyard's Clarksville apartment a week or so later and walking into the young woman's bedroom to find Heald and Hall talking in Bunyard's presence. “I don't remember the sequence of the conversation, but Amaris agreed that she could live with the decision,” Mathis stated. That decision, he eventually learned, was to kill Reynolds.
Mathis said he knew the day they went to help move Hall's personal property that Reynolds was the intended victim. The weekend after the initial discussion between Heald and Hall occurred, he said he asked his friend if he could kill Reynolds. Heald allegedly replied that he would threaten the man first. He also allegedly told Mathis there was “...nothing (Mathis) could do to stop this. Nothing.”
Heald didn't have a gun at the time. That was allegedly given to Heald by Bunyard, who reportedly acted as a go-between for her mother to get the weapon to her boyfriend. Mathis said he first saw the handgun laying beside a satchel where Heald “...kept his marijuana...” and other items. Heald purportedly told Mathis that he'd gotten the gun from Bunyard's mother.
In text messages the night before the fateful shooting, Mathis said he asked a friend uninvolved in the shooting to serve as an alibi for him.
Mathis picked up Heald on that Sunday, but he didn't want to drive, so they switched, and Heald drove to Scottsburg. “He said we needed to get 'in the mood' so he played some music...” as the pair drew closer to Scott County, Mathis related.
At first, Mathis said he thought they were going to talk to Hall. Instead, they drove to the Slate Ford home.
Arriving at the house, Heald backed the car into the driveway. Heald “...got the gun out and put it in the back of his waistband. He walked over to the gate,” Mathis recalled. There wasn't a direct line of sight to the gate from where Mathis was sitting in the car, he said. “I heard a gun shot, and then Kerry came running back to the car. I heard someone yell, 'Hey!' as we left,” Mathis told Prosecutor Mount.
Heald handed the gun to Mathis and told him to “...wipe it down...” the co-defendant related. The pair drove directly to an Austin storage unit. Heald called Hall to get the information needed to access the unit area. When the woman arrived, Mathis said she opened a unit and handed him boxes containing NASCAR memorabilia. He said the gun was given back to Hall by Heald, but he did not see the transaction.
On the drive back to Clarksville, Mathis said his friend stated three times, “I just killed a man. He wasn't a druggie or a gang-banger, just an old man. And I don't care.” Mathis choked as he made the statement. He wiped his eyes with his hand.
His recitation took about 25 minutes to complete.
Indiana State Police quickly solved the case, collecting several boxes of the racing memorabilia from Mathis' apartment and taking him and Heald into custody. Hall was picked up as well by the ISP. Bunyard was arrested and charged in early February. All are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice.
Mathis' intention to enter a “blind plea” to the conspiracy charge was submitted on August 22.
The young man could get up to 40 years in prison, but he will have to wait to learn his fate. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered, and, once Mathis waived the right to be sentenced within 30 days, a date of November 14 was scheduled on the court's docket. That hearing may be used as a review of the status of the case.
By request of Prosecutor Mount, Mathis will be transferred to another prison facility to await the hearing.