News and Tribune

March 22, 2013

Teens charged with killing Clarksville man appear in court

Sowders, Stephens charged with murder and burglary

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Two teens accused of killing a man in his Clarksville home made their first appearance in court Friday morning.

Christopher Jared Sowders, 18, and Garreth Edward Stephens, 19, were charged with murder, a class A felony, burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary, class B felonies. If convicted the teens  face up to 135 years in prison.

Baldwin was found dead, with a single gunshot wound in his chest, in the dining room floor of his Clarksville home on the 2300 block of Plum Wood Drive on Monday, March 11. The home is located in Clarksville, but has a Sellersburg mailing address.

According to the probable cause affidavit, an acquaintance of Sowders received several text messages from the teen stating that he planned to burglarize the Plum Woods Drive home. In a conversation between the two the Wednesday after the alleged murder, Sowders allegedly told his acquaintance, “I did something crazy. Did you hear what happened in Sellersburg? Yeah dude, I shot him.”

According to the probable cause affidavit, Sowders planned the burglary about a month prior to allegedly committing the crime. Several other teens were supposed to be involved in the burglary, but only Sowders and Stephens allegedly followed through with the crime.

It is believed that the teens planned to burglarize the home to take “a couple thousand dollars” Baldwin’s stepson had stashed in his room, according to the probable cause affidavit. The defendants are believed to also have been acquaintances of Baldwin’s stepson.

“There was familiarity between the stepson and the defendants,” said Clark County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Mull after the court hearing. “I think that’s why they thought there was money in the house.”

Because of the premeditation and the severity of the crimes that Sowders and Stephens have been charged with, Mull asked the court not to grant the defendants bail.

“This particular crime, the burglary of the house was premeditated,” he said. “They had planned to go to the house with ski masks and zip ties to bind the occupants inside. When they entered the house, this man, who was working from home, was coldly shot for no reason whatsoever.”

Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael said based on the charge of murder she agreed not to grant the defendants bail.

Witness accounts also placed Stephens’ car, a white Mitsubishi Eclipse — which is registered in his mother’s name — near the scene of the crime on the day of the shooting, according to the probable cause affidavit.

“We’re confident in the information that we have, that we’ve arrested the proper people in this case,” Mull said. “Right now, our information is that both of those individuals were present and involved in the crimes, and when you aid and abet in a crime in Indiana you are equally as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger, so both individuals are charged with murder.”

He added that both defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In addition to the charges filed Friday, Mull told the court he plans to file a motion to move a case in juvenile court against Sowders, alleging that he committed a burglary in Clarksville in 2011, and prosecute him as an adult. It would be a case tried separately from the charges filed Friday.