August 14, 2013Tears flowed from several people in attendance as the two 18-year-olds accused of murdering a Green-ville couple Aug. 3 had their initial hearing in Harrison Superior Court last Wednesday afternoon.
Kevin (Drew) Schuler of Greenville and Austin Scott of New Albany had not-guilty pleas entered on their behalf by Superior Judge Roger Davis as their family members and family members of the victims, Gary Henderson, 70, and Asenath (Senie) Arnold, 57, sobbed in the courtroom. The hearing was not to decide guilt or innocence, but to bring formal charges against the defendants.
Kevin (Drew) Schuler
Also, the defendants are being held without bail, pursuant to Indiana statute that deals with murder charges.
The teens are accused of stabbing Henderson 23 times and beating Arnold to death with a wooden single-tree, which is used on a horse harness, after breaking into the couple's home. The teens also allegedly stole money, firearms and prescription medication.
Pre-trial dates for both teens was set for Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. and a jury trial date of Nov. 19. Davis noted that rarely is the trial date met, and that it's scheduled during the initial hearing to meet constitutional and legal requirements. Schuler also has an informal hearing scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30, at 1 p.m. to inform the court whether or not his attorney, Eric Weitzel, will represent him in the case.
Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said that it was his understanding that the two teens were transported from the Floyd County Jail by the Floyd County Sheriff's Department SWAT team.
Walking in shackles, Scott was the first to appear at 1:47 p.m., entering with two corrections officers. He appeared to look briefly toward the victims' families, then walked with his head down as he was led to the second row of the jury box. He looked up a couple of times toward his own family who had gathered in the back of the room, but never showed any emotion.
Two minutes later, Schuler had two corrections officers at his side as he was led into the room. Schuler's grandmother and mother both sobbed as he walked past to the front row of the jury box.
While waiting for Davis to enter to start the proceedings, Scott stared at the floor, glancing up once to speak to a corrections officer; Schuler, still sporting a black eye from an altercation with Scott's twin brother that eventually led to the pair's capture, looked toward his family from time to time while Weitzel explained the charges against Schuler.
Both teens are charged with three counts of murder (one count for the murder, and two counts because the murders took place while in the act of committing a felony), and felony burglary, robbery and theft. The murder charges carry penalties of 45 to 65 years in prison for each count; the robbery and burglary charges carry penalties of 20 to 50 years; and the charge of theft has a penalty of six months to three years in jail. Each of the six counts carry a potential fine of up to $10,000.
Schalk said he's still weighing whether or not the death penalty should be sought in the case. He said that prosecutors from other counties have given him their opinion, but he said he'll wait a couple of weeks before making a final decision.
"One of the single most important decisions that I'm tasked with as prosecutor is choosing whether or not to seek the death penalty for an individual, even more so for an 18-year-old. Capital punishment must be reserved for those individuals whose crimes exhibit truly the worst of human nature," Schalk said during a press conference the day prior to the initial hearing. "At this point, I would say seeking the death penalty is strongly being considered. However, I will not make such a decision arbitrarily …"
Immediately following Wednesday's hearing, Schalk said he's consulting with the families of the victims and wants them to focus on their loved ones instead of any punishment their alleged killers may receive.
"I've told the family we want life to settle down as much as it's going to settle down. Their focus does not (need) to be prosecution at this particular point. I want everyone's focus to be on the mourning of two really good individuals that are no longer with us. That's the key for this family," Schalk said. "I think as prosecutor it would be inappropriate for me to interfere with their grieving process."
Schuler was the first to go before the judge. As the charges were read, Schuler's grandmother kept her eyes closed and wiped tears away. Once his portion of the hearing was complete Schuler was led away, but not before his grandmother waved at him and he mouthed "I love you" toward his mother and grandmother.
As Scott heard his charges, Davis asked if he understood. Scott mumbled "Yes, sir," and Davis asked that he raise his voice so he could be heard by the court's recording system. Scott did not have a lawyer at the time of the hearing and was told he could either defend himself, hire a lawyer or, if he couldn't afford a lawyer, have a public defender appointed at the county's expense.
As Scott left the courtroom, his sister, Melissa, called out, "I love you, Austin," before she was consoled by her family.
The families on both sides of the case sat apart from one another, and it didn't appear as though any words were said between them af-ter the hearing.
Schuler's parents, Kevin R. and Toni Schuler, issued a statement to television station WDRB Wednesday morning.
Addressed to Henderson's daughters, Stephanie Riggle and Suzanne Schmelz (sic), and seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, Arnold's son, Phyllip Arnold, sister Serena Newkirk, brother, Donald Elgan, and two grandchildren, the letter reads, "The Family of, Kevin A. Schuler (Drew Schuler), wishes to extend our deepest sympathy, our most sincere apologies & condolences, to EACH & EVERY ONE of you for this very sudden, very tragic loss, your family is forced to deal with & attempting to cope with. Our whole family grieves for your family. Your Father, Step-Father, Grand Father, Great-Grand Father & Uncle Gary Henderson & Your Mother Step-Mother, Grand Mother, Sister & Aunt Senie Arnold. Ms. Senie & Gary were 2 "Wonderful & Beautiful" individuals, from the inside-out. Together & individually, they've touch-ed SO MANY lives, in more ways than one. We feel they were both such a HUGE asset to the community & will be terribly missed by everyone blessed in knowing them & blessed to have ever met them."
After funeral services Friday at Swarens Funeral Home in Ramsey, Henderson's and Arnold's cremains were taken to Wolfe Cemetery near Georgetown. Upon their arrival at the cemetery, pallbearers removed a marble urn from a hearse and placed them in a carriage from the couple's business, Welcome Home Carriages, where they took a slow ride to their grave site. Gilbert Duley officiated the graveside service.