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June 21, 2013

Jury may debate death penalty for Indiana man

JEFFERSONVILLE — Jurors were expected to begin deliberating today whether a southwestern Indiana man should be put to death after he was convicted of setting the fire that killed his fiancee’s two children.  

Prosecutors said they intended to call one last witness in the death penalty phase of Jeffrey Weisheit’s murder trial in Jeffersonville. The witness was expected to rebut defense arguments concerning Weisheit’s mental health status at the time of the 2010 fire.

The same jurors who found Weisheit guilty in the first phase of the trial then would recommend whether he should be executed or sentenced to life without parole.

The Evansville man was found guilty Tuesday of murder and arson charges in the April 10, 2010, deaths of 8-year-old Alyssa Lynch and 5-year-old Caleb Lynch.  Prosecutors say Weisheit bound the children with duct tape and set fire to the house he shared with their mother.

On Monday, Weisheit told the jury that he didn’t set the fire, and suggested that faulty electrical work might have been to blame. He did, however, admit that he had stuffed a dish towel into Caleb’s mouth and used duct tape to secure it in place and to pin the boy’s arms behind his back before he left the children alone at about 1 a.m. Their mother was at work at the time.

He said he used the duct tape because Caleb had been misbehaving.  

The coroner determined that the children died of smoke inhalation.  

Several hours after the fire, deputies from Boone County, Ky., south of Cincinnati, were pursuing Weisheit’s car when he jumped from the vehicle while it was moving and charged officers with a hunting knife. He was subdued with a stun gun.  

When detectives questioned Weisheit in a hospital, court records say he indicated that he set the fire and that he knew the children were home at the time. However, he also repeatedly told investigators that he could not remember any details.  

Two mental health experts testified they each examined Weisheit and determined he was bipolar.

The trial was moved to from Evansville to Jeffersonville, about 100 miles to the west, due to media coverage.

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