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November 24, 2013

Convicted murderer Gibson faces his fate on Tuesday

Judge expected to set execution date

NEW ALBANY — A Floyd County judge on Tuesday is expected to tell convicted murderer William Clyde Gibson III which day he will be executed by lethal injection. And county officials continue to count costs associated with Gibson.

A jury decided on Oct. 8 that the 56-year-old New Albany man will be punished by death for the 2012 death of Christine Whitis, 75, who was found killed in Gibson’s garage April 19.

Gibson currently has two additional, unrelated murder charges pending in Floyd County. He is expected to go to trial for the murder of Stephanie Kirk, 35, Charlestown, who was found buried in Gibson’s backyard nearly a week after police responded to his home after Whitis’ remains were discovered.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson has said he will again seek the death penalty during the Kirk trial.

After New Albany police arrested Gibson in April, 2012, he admitted to killing Karen Hodella, 45, whose body was found in the Ohio River in 2003. The Hodella trial is a non-capital case.

Henderson said he expects for each of the additional trials to be completed before the end of 2014, but that the appellate processes will continue for years.

Henderson has said that he fully intends to prosecute Gibson, despite the success of the first trial, which cost nearly $400,000 — a number that will only increase during required state and federal appellate processes.

As the Floyd County Council is currently  $2.9 million over budget for the 2014 fiscal year, the value of spending tax dollars to continue prosecuting Gibson, who will likely be on death row before the end of the week, is being weighed by county officials.

Floyd County Councilman Jim Wathen said the possibility of the Whitis trial being overturned by a higher court makes it worth the costs to try Gibson in future trials.

“I’ve talked to [the] prosecuting attorney, and I feel like he doesn’t feel like he has a choice but to go forward with the other two trials. There are two families there that deserve their justice as well,” Wathen said. “I feel like with everything that came up at the first trial, that the other two will go pretty quick. I hate to spend the money, but sometimes you have [to]. It could be reversed, and he could never be tried again. We can’t chance that.”

Floyd County councilwoman Dana Fendley said she supports Henderson’s motivation to hold Gibson accountable in court for the killings of Kirk and Hodella.

“If the prosecutor thinks he needs another trial, I support him. If he wants to plead guilty, and the families are happy, then I am OK with that,” Fendley said. “If he pleads guilty, he [has] already received the death penalty. If the family is happy with it [a guilty plea], then I am happy with it.”

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Floyd County Superior Court No. 1.

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