The man found guilty of the 2013 slaying of four people in Waynesville is appealing his murder convictions to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Columbus attorney Jane Ann Noblitt, who was appointed to handle the appeals process for Samuel Earl Sallee will have a maximum of 45 minutes to make oral arguments on his behalf.

Noblitt said she intends to argue that evidence presented during the February trial of Sallee, 58, was not sufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, Sallee will not be present, Noblitt said.

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Open to the public, the hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 17 in the court chambers, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.

No DNA or fingerprint evidence was presented during the trial that linked Sallee to the killings, and the murder weapon itself was never recovered.

Nevertheless, a Bartholomew County jury took two hours Feb. 25 to find Sallee guilty of four counts of murder in the killings of Katheryn M. Burton, 53; Thomas W. Smith, 39; Aaron T. Cross, 41; and Shawn L. Burton, 40.

The bodies of all four victims were found inside 2634 E. Main Cross St., Waynesville, where Katheryn Burton and Smith lived, and where Cross and Shawn Burton were visiting.

The four had been shot, and Katheryn Burton also had been stabbed.

While presenting its case over six days in February, the prosecution called 37 witnesses and submitted more than 300 pieces of evidence that included:

A cardboard box filled with spray-in foam found next to a Columbus residence where Sallee was staying that contained the wallets of all three male victims.

Testimony from Sallee’s former cellmate that Sallee confessed committing the crime to him. His testimony included a number of details determined to be true that were withheld from the media.

Items stolen from the crime scene that were found hidden inside the garage of the house where Sallee was staying.

Ballistic evidence found at the murder scene that matched bullet casings taken from the Brown County property of the defendant’s sister, where Sallee had been target-shooting.

In closing statements, the prosecution contended that after finding himself without a job, money or support from his own family, a despondent Sallee killed and robbed his victims to feed his methamphetamine addiction.

On April 2, Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann sentenced Sallee to four consecutive sentences of life without parole, the maximum allowed.

All Indiana inmates who are sentenced to life without parole are required to have their cases reviewed by a higher court, Noblitt said.

During a March 24 interview with The Republic, Sallee maintained his innocence and cited three grounds he planned to use to appeal his conviction:

He objected that he was not in the courtroom while jurors reviewed photographic evidence.

His defense team did not hire an investigator to work on Sallee’s behalf.

His two court-appointed attorneys did not represent him to the best of their ability.

Regarding Sallee’s first point, Heimann said last spring the jury was permitted to review all evidence after it is submitted to the court.

The judge also said authorized funds that could have been spent on an investigator were instead spent by the defense to hire a firearms expert who never testified in court.

When Sallee was asked by The Republic how defense attorney David Nowak failed to do his job, he replied that Nowak “was working more for the prosecutor, because he was mad because I said he was incompetent.”

In regard to the performance of co-defense attorney Christopher Clerc, Sallee said: “Chris told me a jury trial is like putting on a play act. Now, what kind of a defense is that?”

Noblitt declined to comment Friday whether those three grounds will be part of her presentation to the Indiana Supreme Court.

But she did say that if the Indiana Supreme Court denies Sallee a new trial, his only remaining appeals option will be to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his case.

In handing down the maximum sentence, Heimann noted that Sallee has accumulated 18 convictions since 1970, when he was 13 years old.

They include multiple burglaries and battery charges, as well as escape and robbery, the judge said.

Sallee timetable

2013

May 11: Bodies of four victims found at 2634 E. Main Cross St. in Waynesville.

June 17: Samuel Earl Sallee identified as the “prime and only suspect.”

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

2014

Feb. 20: Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash announces he will not seek the death penalty. Several continuances are later filed that delayed the trial.  

2015

Feb. 19: Jury trial begins in Bartholomew Circuit Court. The prosecution calls 37 witnesses and submits more than 300 pieces of evidence

Feb. 25: Jury takes two hours to find Sallee guilty of four counts of murder.

April 2: Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann sentences Sallee to four consecutive sentences of life without parole. Sallee announces his intention to appeal the convictions.

Dec. 17: Indiana Supreme Court scheduled to hear Sallee appeal 9 a.m. in the court’s Indianapolis chambers.

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