Sallee murder case to begin Monday with jury selection

Bartholomew Circuit Court has set aside nearly two weeks for Samuel E. Sallee’s murder trial, scheduled to begin Monday.

The 57-year-old Columbus man is charged with murder in the slaying of four people in a house on East Main Cross Street in Waynesville nearly two years ago. 

The bodies of Shawn Burton, 40; homeowner Katheryn M. Burton, 53; her companion, Thomas W. Smith, 39; and visitor Aaron T. Cross, 41, were found the night of May 11, 2013, by Katheryn Burton’s son, Daniel, after he arrived home from work.

All four had been shot multiple times in the upper body, including the head, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said. In addition, Katheryn Burton had been stabbed multiple times.

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If the testimony lasts as long as expected, jury deliberations could begin March 3.

Twelve jurors and at least two alternates will be selected from a pool of about 160 Bartholomew County residents Monday and Tuesday — about four times the number normally called for a felony trial, Judge Stephen Heimann said.

But even 160 may not be enough, the judge said. 

“I may be coming back saying we can’t even get a jury in this county because it’s a high-profile case,” Heimann told the Bartholomew County Council on Tuesday.

Nash said he is worried that too many potential jurors might already have knowledge or information generated by pretrial publicity that has been ruled inadmissible in court.

If a jury cannot be seated, the trial could be moved out of Columbus, or an out-of-county jury could be brought in to hear the case, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash said.

Under Indiana law, a murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of 45 years to a maximum of 65 years in prison, meaning if Sallee were convicted of four killings, he could get from 180 to 260 years in prison.

After conferring with family members, Nash announced in February 2014 that he would not seek the death penalty.

    

Case timeline

2013

10:39 p.m. May 11 — Daniel Burton calls 911, saying he came home to discover bodies in the living room of his home at 2634 E. Main Cross St. in Waynesville.

10:51 p.m. May 11 — Officers arrive at the scene and see four bodies — three men and one woman.

3 p.m. May 12 — Bartholomew County Sheriff Mark Gorbett publicly identifies the victims.

May 14 — Investigators reveal all four victims of the attack were shot in the head in addition to other injuries. Police release the contents of Burton’s 911 call.

June 17 — Gorbett names Samuel Earl Sallee the “prime and only suspect.”

June 18 — Assuring there is no danger to the public, Bartholomew County Prosecutor William Nash said he prefers to let the ongoing homicide investigation proceed rather than rush to file formal charges against anyone.

Dec. 13 — Sallee is formally charged with four counts of murder.

2014

Jan. 14 — Initial hearing for Sallee held in Bartholomew Circuit Court. Public defenders David Nowak and Christopher Clerc appointed to represent the defendant.

Feb. 20 — Nash announces he will not seek the death penalty.

June 9 — First trial postponement requested by defense granted.

Oct. 21 – Second trial postponement requested by defense granted.

2015

Jan. 16 — Nowak cancels a change-of-plea hearing, signaling an intention to proceed to trial. Two days of jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.