TERRE HAUTE —
Five defendants facing criminal charges in connection with the July 2011 shooting death of a Terre Haute police officer could have trial dates set next year in Monroe County.
Vigo County prosecuting attorneys along with defense attorneys for Jenny Torres, Charles Elkins, Jesse Padgett II, Heather Elkins and Roberta Utterback convened Friday morning with Monroe Superior Court Judge Marc Kellams in Vigo Superior Court 3.
The cases have been venued to Monroe County after the defense attorneys claimed that public outrage and pretrial publicity have made it unlikely that they would receive fair trials in Vigo County. Judge Kellams said Friday that plea hearings or trials will be conducted in Monroe County, but he chose to travel to Vigo County for Friday's hearing rather than have the five defendants transported from the Vigo County Jail to Bloomington.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts told Kellams that formal plea agreements have been extended to the defendants through their attorneys. Roberts said his office is now trying to coordinate depositions of the witnesses to the events on the day that Officer Brent Long was shot and killed by a federal fugitive.
Long and his K-9 partner Shadow were both shot inside a house on North Eighth Street in Terre Haute when a federal fugitive task force attempted to serve a warrant on a known suspect, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting Officer Long. Shadow recovered from his wound and has been retired as a canine officer.
Torres, Charles Elkins, Padgett, Utterback and Heather Elkins were inside the house on that day, and were removed from the dwelling by police only minutes before the shooting death of Officer Long.
Torres, Padgett and Charles Elkins have been charged with class-D felony and class-A misdemeanor charges of resisting law enforcement, as well as class-B misdemeanor charges of visiting a common nuisance.
Heather Elkins faces charges of possession of methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance, receiving stolen property, resisting arrest and possession of paraphernalia.
Utterback has been charged with assisting a criminal and resisting law enforcement. She also has other criminal cases stemming from unrelated allegations.
All five were indicted by a federal grand jury for their actions on the day of the shooting. They all entered guilty pleas and received federal prison sentences. Padgett and Utterback are still serving their federal sentences. Charles Elkins and Heather Elkins have served their federal sentences and are being held in the Vigo County Jail on their local charges. Torres has served her federal sentence and has been released from the county jail to await resolution of her local charges.
The prosecution and defense attorneys agreed that the depositions could occur in January and early February.
After the depositions are taken, Roberts said, it will be clear if firm trial dates are needed. He said that the plea agreements made to each defendant calls for a local sentence consecutive to their federal sentences.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.