An Evansville man who could be sentenced to death if found guilty in a verdict expected this week took the witness stand in his own defense Monday in a Clark County court.
Jeffrey Weisheit, 37, sporting a black suit he was worn since the start of the trial on June 3, told the jurors that he did not set the fire to his own home in 2010 that resulted in the deaths of his then-girlfriend’s children, Caleb Lynch, 5, and Alyssa Lynch, 8.
Weisheit has been charged in Vanderburgh County with two counts of class A felony murder and one count of A felony arson.
He was the last witness called to testify by his court-appointed attorney Michael McDaniel, of New Albany, even though McDaniel had recommended Weisheit not testify.
McDaniel said it was not determined Weisheit would take the witness stand until 1 p.m., a very short time after the defense had thought it had completed its presentation to the jurors.
“He waited until the last minute to make the decision,” McDaniel said. “It’s his decision.”
Weisheit testified that shortly before the time of the fatal fire, he was watching the children while their mother was at her job nearly 40 minutes away.
He explained during his testimony that he had fallen asleep on a couch while watching television then he put the children to bed before talking to their mother on the phone.
Not long afterward, Weisheit said he heard a “loud pop” come from Caleb Lynch’s room so he went to the bedroom and the boy was there playing with toy trucks and cars.
Weisheit said Caleb Lynch refused to go to bed and, “It was the first time he really ever fought me.”
He said he decided to get out of the house. “I got to get out of here. I got to go,” he told the jurors during his recounting of the incident, and added that it is not out of the ordinary for him to remove himself from situations when he feels overwhelmed.
But before he left home, he admitted to the jury that he put duct tape around the boy’s hands and stuffed a 12-inch-by-12-inch cloth in the child’s mouth and covered it with duct tape.
Weisheit then packed his clothing, shoes, two outfits he had purchased for his girlfriend and about $5,000 before leaving the home in his Chevrolet Camaro.
He said he took the money because his girlfriend had stolen from him in the past and was worried she would take the money and leave the home after she returned from work.
He told the jurors he planned on being away for only a day or two.
Weisheit testified he left his home about 1 a.m. and drove around Evansville for a while before deciding to drive to Cincinnati.
He was stopped by police hours later in Covington, Ky., following a pursuit that exceeded 100 mph.
Police were assisted in locating Weisheit by OnStar employees who tracked his vehicle.
After the pursuit ended, Weisheit said he was ready to die.
“Do it,” he said he told the lawmen, “I tried to get them to shoot me.”
While the testimony was part of the defense, which is typically carefully guided by the attorney, presiding Judge Daniel Moore allowed Weisheit to speak in narrative form, with only a single question coming from McDaniel at the beginning of his testimony.
Vanderburgh County Deputy Prosecutor Charles Berger objected several times during Weisheit’s testimony when it appeared he was speaking aimlessly and not in reference to the charges he faces.
Moore took the objection into consideration, but, essentially, permitted Weisheit to speak at will.
Through previous testimony it was determined Caleb Lynch was found with a railroad flare tucked into his underwear.
During cross examination, Vanderburgh County Deputy Prosecutor Gary Schutte asked Weisheit how the railroad flares were placed on the boy.
“I don’t know,” Weisheit responded, who reiterated he left before the fire in the home had started.
Schutte continued to press Weisheit, asking, “You didn’t care too much for Caleb did you?,” to which he replied, “I loved Caleb.”
Weisheit also said that he didn’t think the fire was intentionally set, but was started due to his faulty electrical work in the home that he knew was not up to code.
“If you think I did it, I will take a polygraph test to prove I didn’t do it,” Weisheit directed at Schutte.
At the close of Schutte’s cross examination, he waved a dismissing hand toward Weisheit.
Moore gave Weisheit an opportunity to address any of the prior testimonies, at which time he said, “I would rather Mr. McDaniel ask me some questions.”
Moore asked McDaniel if he had any questions for his client, but McDaniel responded only by shaking his head no.
“I don’t think [Weisheit] was extremely helpful to himself in his testimony, and, perhaps, answered some questions that I would have rather left unanswered,” McDaniel said after the day in court.
McDaniel said his client’s testimony made his job more difficult leading to closing arguments.
“[The testimony] changes the complexion and theories and price of poker here,” he said. “I have to go home and sort this out a little bit and try to figure out what to tell [the jurors] about what they heard from him.”
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.