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Logistical issues complicate suspect’s return

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The man charged with killing four people in a Waynesville home remains in federal custody and may not return to Columbus until next month for his initial court hearing, said Chief Deputy Todd Noblitt of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Samuel E. Sallee was formally charged Dec. 13 with four counts of murder in the May 11 deaths of Katheryn M. Burton, 53; Thomas W. Smith, 39; Aaron T. Cross, 41; and Shawn L. Burton, 40.

While Sallee, 56, has been in police custody since four days after the killings on other charges, he has been in federal custody since Aug. 5, when U.S. marshals picked him up on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

His next court date on the federal charge is March 24. A member of Bartholomew Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann’s staff said that the judge will not schedule an initial hearing for Sallee until he is in local custody.

Federal court documents that include correspondence written by Sallee indicate that as of Dec. 5 the suspect was being held

170 miles from Columbus in a federal correctional facility in Henderson, Ky., southwest of Evansville.

That facility likely was chosen based on the amount of space federal authorities had available late last summer, rather than its proximity to the location of the crime, Noblitt said.

“Whoever has possession of a prisoner wanted in different jurisdictions usually makes the final decision on how all legal proceedings will proceed,” Noblitt said. “We have to work with the federal authorities because they also have court dates set, and it becomes our responsibility

to make sure that local

court hearings don’t conflict with theirs.”

Complicating matters further is the arrival of the holiday season — a time when many of the decision-makers are taking time off from work, Noblitt said.

The sheriff’s department has been in regular contact with federal authorities concerning Sallee and have taken steps to ensure the suspect is not released, no matter the outcome of the federal proceedings, Noblitt said.

It will be necessary for Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash to collaborate with the offices of both Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett to arrange a schedule of court appearances for the suspect that accommodates all involved parties, Noblitt said.

While noting that “several players will have to come to the table,” Noblitt said he expects the discussion of custody and jurisdiction will focus on “determining what is best for everyone involved.”

Although it’s possible that federal authorities might determine that four murder charges should take precedence over a firearms charge, they are under no legal obligation to make that determination, Noblitt said.

When one suspect faces criminal charges in two jurisdictions, two scenarios occur:

The court that has custody of the prisoner will keep him until the case is resolved and then hand him over to the other court.

The prisoner is shuttled back and forth between the two jurisdictions to attend various court dates and judicial hearings.

In order to have Sallee returned to Bartholomew County in an expedient manner, it likely will be necessary for Nash and

his staff to build a strong case they can present to

both Zoeller and Hogsett, Noblitt said.

The decision is entirely out of local hands, Noblitt said, and if federal and state officials decide to proceed with both criminal cases simultaneously, it will present his department and court officials with a new set of challenges.

“If they decide to allow Sallee to face federal and state charges at the same time, it’s going to take quite a bit of logistical work to get him to where he needs to be,” Noblitt said. “It’s a pretty cumbersome process to make sure things happen as they are supposed to happen.”

What’s next

n The office of Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash is expected to ask Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett to expedite the return of quadruple murder suspect Samuel Sallee to Bartholomew County from an out-of-state federal corrections facility.

n Due to the holiday season, it’s likely the prosecutor’s formal request will not be considered by federal and state officials until January. Local court dates for Sallee, including an initial hearing, will not be scheduled until after he is transported back to Columbus.

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