By GARY POPP
Lisa Lynch fought back tears as she described in a Clark County court the children a convicted murder took from her.
“No one can understand the pain I feel every single second of every single day,” Lynch said of the loss of 5-year-old Caleb and 8-year-old Alyssa through the actions of her then-boyfriend. “My life feels so empty without them and will never be the same.”
The man a Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 found responsible for the deaths — Jeffrey Alan Weisheit, 37, of Evansville — learned Thursday he is scheduled to die by lethal injection June 19, 2014. The ruling came after Weisheit was convicted by a jury of double murder and felony arson for burning his own home in 2010 while the children were inside.
“They will never have the chance to fall in love or to get married,” Lynch sadly said to the court.
Lynch read from a letter about how her daughter had once been so excited to make a new best friend with another little girl and the two would draw pictures for each other and whisper secrets. She said her son was sometimes rambunctious like most little boys, but he was also sweet and compassionate. She said Caleb Lynch, 5, had a a love of police, fire and ambulance vehicles when he saw them racing down a street with their lights and sirens.
Following Lynch’s statements, Judge Daniel Moore called Clark County Sheriff Danny Rodden, who was seated in the court’s gallery area, to approach the court and serve Weisheit a death warrant. Standing several feet in front of Weisheit, Rodden informed him that he is to be executed next year.
Rodden then handed the convicted man the piece of paper from which he read.
Vanderburgh County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Gary Schutte said after the hearing that is very likely the execution date will be modified to a later date as an appeals process will begin. Schutte said the prosecution was proud of Lynch for begin able to eloquently provide a statement to the court during the sentencing hearing.
“I don’t know how she could have said better, what she had to say,” Schutte said. “No one can relate to what she has been through. I think she wanted to focus to be on those two children, and I think she did a good job of relaying that.”
Schutte said in the long course of preparing for the prosecution, the sensibilities of loved ones are sometime lost, and that Lynch’s statements brought the focus back on the children.
“You start dealing with proving things, and the elements and things like that, and you forget this was a 5-year-old little boy and an 8-year-old little girl, and [Lynch] wanted people to remember them.”
During the hearing, many of the jurors returned to the court, only this time not sitting in the jury box but in the gallery area as bystanders.
“This was the first time in my career that I have seen that many jurors come to a sentencing hearing, and I think that speaks volumes of their character, and, obviously, their level of commitment and what this case took out of them as well,” Schutte said.
He said the jurors spent three weeks in sequestration at a Clark County hotel during the court proceedings. The Clark County jury was seated after the trial was moved to Jeffersonville from Evansville because of the media coverage the case had received.
“The sacrifice they made went above and beyond anything that could be asked by the people of the state. They spent three weeks away from their families, and one of them has a 9-month-old baby,” he said. “It took a lot, and we are very, very grateful for their service.”
Schutte said more than just the Lynch family and their loved ones have suffered from the children’s cruel deaths.
“We feel greatly for [Weisheit’s family] as well,” he said. “They are victims in this, too. Our hearts go out to them as well. It doesn’t end here for them either. It is a good family that has had a devastating thing occur.”
Less than an hour after Weisheit — who appeared disheveled in the courtroom with his hair mussed and wearing a pale yellow, jail-issued jumpsuit — was sentenced, he left the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex to be taken to an Indiana Department of Correction facility in Michigan City for processing and housing.
Emergency officials responded to Weisheit’s home, which was fully engulfed with fire in the early morning hours of April 10, 2010. Weisheit shared his home at the time with Lynch and her two children.
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 texts were never answered.
An OnStar employee later made contact with Weisheit in his vehicle, but he declined to take the call from the increasingly 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 that 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 arms had been 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.
During his testimony — which his attorney Michael McDaniel, of New Albany, suggested he not provide — Weisheit told the jurors he had used duct tape to bind 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.
He was convicted of double murder and A felony arson, but the arson charge was modified to a B felony during the sentencing hearing. Prior to the trial, Weisheit had been offered a chance to enter a plea of guilty for the murders in return for a life sentence, which he declined.