News and Tribune

April 23, 2014

Clarksville murder suspects in court

Attorneys asks for additional leniency, claim weak case

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — The two men charged in the murder of a man in his Clarksville home last year are hoping to have the restrictions of their home incarceration terms lessened or to be transferred out of the program completely.

Christopher Jarod Sowders, 19, Borden, and Garreth Edward Stephens, 20, New Albany, who have each been charged with murder and felony burglary, appeared in a Clark County court Wednesday.

The men were placed in the Clark County jail for nearly five months days after Steven Baldwin, 48, was found fatally shot in his home along Plum Wood Drive, near Sellersburg’s Hunter Station Road, in March 2013.

The ongoing case is being heard in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4.

Judge Vicki Carmichael modified the men’s bonds from no bond to $100,000 court cash in August 2013.  Since that time, nearly nine months ago, the men have remained on home incarceration.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Sowder’s attorney, Perry McCall, and Bart Betteau, who is representing Stephens, requested Carmichael  grant the men additional freedoms. They asked that Carmichael ease their clients’ home incarceration restrictions, such as allowing Stephens to leave his home to attend his nephew’s tee ball games.

Both attorneys also asked she go a step further by allowing the men to transferred out of home incarceration and into the less restrictive Clark County Community Corrections Day Reporting program.

Both men also expressed their concerns to Carmichael the expenses on the families to keep the men on home incarceration. They said each man is paying more than $300 a month in user fees to be in the program.

Clark County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Mull asked that Carmichael make no changes to the men’s current statuses.

“These men are charged with murder,” Mull said before the court. “And, we believe they are properly charged with murder.”

He told Carmichael that allowing a suspect charged with murder to attend a public event, such as a tee ball game would be upsetting to the community.

Carmichael took the attorneys’ requests under advisement and is expected to decide in the coming days how, if any, modifications will be made to the men’s pretrial programs.

After the hearing, McCall and Betteau said day reporting would provide Sowders and Stephens more liberties, but they would be put onto a schedule to regularly contact officials either by telephone or in person.

McCall said Carmichael has a lot of flexibility in how restrictive to make both the home incarceration and day reporting programs.

Both attorneys said it is highly uncommon to have a client charged with murder placed on home incarceration. And, while it may appear the attorneys are bold in their requests that their clients be given additional liberties, they say that’s not the case.

“It is extremely rare,” Betteau said of the men being released to home incarceration. “But, you got to remember why that is. It is because of the lack of evidence.”

The hearing addressed only the matter of Stephens and Sowders’ home incarceration modifications, and it did not hear the scheduled matter of Betteau requesting the cases be tried separately. That issue was rescheduled and will be heard April 30.