Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 23, 2013

Trial rescheduled in slaying death of Barbara Sheppard

By MADELINE BUCKLEY
South Bend Tribune

— SOUTH BEND — The trial of a Goshen man accused of killing his ex-wife in 2011 was rescheduled Monday during a hearing in which the defendant switched attorneys and lawyers hashed out concerns with his ability to review some evidence.

Joseph Wayer appeared before St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley with graying hair that now almost reaches his shoulders.

His scraggly locks, a contrast from the closely cropped sandy brown hair in his mugshot, are evidence of the time passed since his arrest more than a year ago.

Barbara Sheppard, 33, was found dead outside a Low Bob’s Discount Tobacco store in Mishawaka just before Christmas in 2011.

An autopsy revealed the young mother of two who worked at the tobacco shop died of stab wounds from a sharp object.

Wayer alerted the court on Monday that he is retaining Gary Griner, who will take the place of Charles Lahey, the public defender who has handled the case thus far.

Hurley scheduled Wayer’s trial for Aug. 19 with a record date of July 22 in order to allow both parties to tie up several issues.

In the case that centers around DNA evidence, the defense has said it needs more time to receive and review a report from its expert witness who specializes in DNA.

Charging documents allege that Sheppard grabbed hair fibers from her attacker that are a likely match to Wayer, though the defense had sought an independent DNA analysis.

Wayer voluntarily gave police a DNA sample.

Lahey also asked for a court order that would allow Wayer to review in jail stacks of CDs that will be entered as evidence, arguing in a motion that it is within his rights to review the material, but the jail doesn’t currently have the technology to allow him to do so.

During the hearing, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter noted that Hurley, newly-appointed on the Superior Court, may have still been with the prosecutor’s office when Sheppard was killed.

Hurley was a deputy prosecutor until January 2012 when she took her former position as magistrate for the St. Joseph Circuit Court.

Sheppard was slain Dec. 22, 2011, and prosecutors charged Wayer in February 2012.

“It’s hard to say,” Hurley said. “It was literally right at the time I left.”

She told the attorneys she did not recall any involvement with the case during her last few weeks in the prosecutor’s office.

Lahey and Griner both said they were comfortable with the case remaining in Hurley’s court.

Staff writer Madeline Buckley:

mbuckley@sbtinfo.com

574-235-6337