The prosecutor in an Allen County murder case involving three co-defendants from Indiana said he is unlikely to pursue the death penalty.
A hearing was conducted Tuesday in Allen Circuit Court in the cases of Derek Lucas, Sevonte Sumpter-Bey and Rylan Wiles.
The three are charged with murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Justin Wix, 47, who was shot and killed last year at his home on 151 Stinson Lane in Scottsville, near the Tennessee state line.
Wix’s body was found May 7, 2019, outside the camper where he lived.
Lucas and Wiles are additionally charged with first-degree burglary and tampering with physical evidence.
Because the homicide is alleged to have happened during another violent offense, Allen County Commonwealth’s Attorney Corey Morgan is allowed under state law to seek the death penalty, but Morgan said Wednesday he is unlikely to do so.
“It’s always subject to change, but at this point I don’t feel it would be appropriate unless something new (in the case) comes to light that I’m not aware of,” Morgan said.
A hearing has been set for June 18 that Morgan said was to make sure that Sumpter-Bey’s newly appointed attorney had received available evidence in the case.
Sumpter-Bey, 20, was previously represented by Pat Roemer of the state Department of Public Advocacy, who withdrew from the case because of a conflict of interest.
Roemer had previously represented Lucas, 21, in the case’s early stages before Lucas retained private attorney Ted Shouse.
Morgan said he has provided discovery evidence to Shouse and Wiles’ attorney, Ken Garrett.
Wix’s death was investigated by Kentucky State Police.
At a preliminary hearing last year in Allen District Court, KSP Detective Jonathan Johnson testified that Lucas was “basically the organizer” of a robbery plot and recruited Sumpter-Bey and Wiles, 18, to participate.
Police learned about the three suspects from an Indiana juvenile who contacted KSP a month after the shooting and claimed to have information about the incident.
The juvenile reported overhearing Lucas, Sumpter-Bey and Wiles boast of their involvement in the shooting, Johnson said.
Police traveled to Indiana and located Lucas and Wiles, who declined to give statements. Sumpter-Bey, however, implicated himself and his two co-defendants during a police interview, Johnson said.
“(Sumpter-Bey) indicated that Lucas had traveled to Wix’s house previously and saw that Wix had a pretty substantial amount of money and drugs,” Johnson said at the preliminary hearing.
Lucas was familiar with Wix’s residence from an earlier visit with Sumpter-Bey’s uncle, Johnson said.
Sumpter-Bey detailed to police that he dropped a knife as he kicked open the door to Wix’s camper and did not realize it until he had left the scene.
Sumpter-Bey disclosed that he and Wiles forced their way into the camper, while Wix exited through another door and saw Lucas, Johnson said.
“(Wix) saw Mr. Lucas, recognized him from being there previously, apparently realizes what’s going on and shoots either at Mr. Lucas or up in the air,” Johnson testified, going on to say that Lucas ran back to his vehicle.
Sumpter-Bey identified Wiles as the person who shot Wix, Johnson said.
Court records indicate Sumpter-Bey claimed a gun was taken from Wix’s possession after the incident, and that firearm, along with the gun used to shoot Wix, were thrown in a creek in Indiana.
Johnson testified last year that a cellphone number registered to Lucas pinged at a cell tower near Wix’s residence on the day of the shooting and a car registered to Lucas was photographed at a toll bridge spanning the Ohio River at the Kentucky-Indiana border on the morning of Wix’s death.