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June 21, 2013

Jury recommends Weisheit receive death sentence

Jury wrestles with sentencing verdict for more than 5 hours

JEFFERSONVILLE —  A Clark County jury deliberated for more than five hours Friday to decide an Evansville man should be sentenced to death for the murder of his former girlfriend’s two children.

Jeffrey Alan Weisheit, 37, was convicted by the same jury of double murder and arson, all class A felony charges, after deliberating just more than two hours Tuesday following more than two weeks of trial.

Weisheit was on trial for setting fire to his own Evansville home in 2010 while his then-girlfriend’s children, 5-year-old Caleb Lynch and 8-year-old Alyssa Lynch, were inside.

While the jurors’ sentencing verdict is only a recommendation, and a pre-sentencing investigation will take place prior to official sentencing, according to state statue presiding Judge Daniel Moore is bound to rule the sentencing suggested by the jury.

While the proceedings are a Vanderburgh County case, because of media attention the case received, the trial was transferred to Clark County so an untainted jury could be assembled.

Vanderburgh County Deputy Prosecutors Gary Schutte and Charles Berger represented the state, and court-appointed attorney Mike McDaniel, of New Albany, and Vanderburgh County court-appointed attorney Stephen Owens represented Weisheit.

After the guilty verdict was provided Tuesday, the attorneys presented additional arguments Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning before the jury went into sentencing deliberation.

Following the sentencing verdict, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann said it was difficult for the victims’ family to relive the tragedy during the trial, but he hopes the loved ones have now received some closure.

“This is a very difficult case, and you can’t bring these children back,” Hermann said. “All [prosecutors] wanted to do was finally get in court and tell our side of the story and present the facts to the jury and let them make a recommendation.”

Hermann said it has been a “long time coming” for all those involved following the fatal fire and Weisheit’s arrest more than three years ago.

“We are just glad to get to his point,” he said. “It is difficult for everyone involved. My heart goes out, obviously, to the victims’ family, but also to Jeff’s [Weisheit] family because this is, obviously, a very trying thing for them.”

Hermann said Clark County officials did a great job facilitating the trial for the Vanderburgh County case.

“I realize this put a real strain on Clark County. We clogged up one of your judges and one of your courtrooms, but everyone in Clark County, Judge Moore and his staff, everyone we came in contact with has been more than hospitable, very helpful,” Hermann said. “We have nothing but praise for Clark County.”

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for July 11 in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.

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