By GARY POPP
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.
Emergency officials responded to Weisheit’s home that was fully engulfed with fire in the early morning hours of April 10, 2010.
Weisheit shared his home at the time with his then-girlfriend, Lisa Lynch, and her two children.
Lisa Lynch was working a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift at a plastics plant when she received a call from a neighbor that her home was ablaze, and Weisheit’s Chevrolet Camaro was not at the property.
Lynch testified during the trial that she had made multiple attempts to reach Weisheit, but her calls and text were never answered.
An OnStar employee later made contact with Weisheit in his OnStar-equipped vehicle, but he declined to take the call from the growingly worried mother.
Through the assistance of OnStar, law enforcement was able to track his Camaro, and he was taken into custody in Covington, Ky., after a vehicle pursuit that exceeded speeds of 100 mph.
Weisheit has remained in jail since his initial arrest.
As the early morning became day, first responders at the fire scene pulled the children’s charred remains from the burnt wreckage that had been Weisheit’s home.
Through the testimonies of those who conducted the children’s autopsies and the processes to confirm their identity through dental records, it was determined Caleb Lynch had his arms bound by duct tape and his mouth had been stuffed with a 12-inch-by-12-inch dish cloth and covered with duct tape before the fire took his and his sister’s lives.
While Alyssa Lynch was not found to have been bound like her younger brother, forensic experts testified that she was burnt so badly in the fire that her lips had to be removed to reveal her teeth to confirm her identification.
During his testimony, which his attorney suggested he not provide, Weisheit told the jurors he had used duct tape to bound the boy, but said he did not set fire to the home, nor was there any fire at the home when he left the residence.
Weisheit continued from the witness stand that he didn’t think the fire was intentionally set by anyone, but had started due to his own faulty electrical work.