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Murder trial delayed 4 months

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The jury trial of a Columbus man charged with killing four people last year in Waynesville has been postponed until Oct. 27.

Samuel E. Sallee, 56, was charged in December with four counts of murder in connection with the May 11, 2013, shooting deaths of Katheryn M. Burton, 53; Thomas W. Smith, 39; Aaron T. Cross, 41; and Shawn L. Burton, 40.

Continuance of the trial, which had been scheduled to begin June 23, was requested Monday in Bartholomew Circuit Court by court-appointed attorneys David Nowak and Christopher Clerc.

The reason for the delay is to provide additional time for the defense to review and prepare evidence before it’s presented to a jury, Nowak said.

To illustrate his need for time, Nowak noted there is up to three times more physical evidence to process in the Sallee case than for the 11-day murder trial of Tami Duval, who was found guilty in April 2011 of murdering her estranged husband four years earlier to collect on his life insurance.

The four-month delay comes less than a week after Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash filed a motion to prevent Sallee’s attorneys from suggesting other possible killers during the trial without first holding a hearing outside the presence of the jury, the motion stated.

“The motion is necessary to prevent the unfair prejudice that would have resulted if the state were required to object every time counsel tried to elicit testimony regarding other perpetrators,” according to Nash’s June 4 motion. “This could leave the false impression the state was attempting to prevent them from hearing potentially and exculpatory evidence.”

According to the motion, Nash expects the defense to imply the killer could be one of two other people:

An unknown drug-dealer who got into a heated telephone conversation with Smith the day of the homicides.

A neighbor who was shot by Smith five years before the Waynesville quadruple homicide.

The hearings Nash is requesting would “determine whether the proposed testimony is relevant and otherwise admissible under the circumstances existing at the time if was offered,” Nash’s motion stated.

Investigators have long maintained their belief that Sallee was their sole suspect in the killings. A decision concerning the prosecutor’s motion has not been made by presiding judge Stephen Heimann.

The victims were found slain in the house shared by Katheryn Burton and Smith after Burton’s adult son Daniel returned home from work that night. While all victims had been shot in the head, Katheryn Burton also suffered multiple knife wounds, according to investigators.

In February, Nash announced he would not seek the death penalty against Sallee because the proceedings would be too difficult on the victims’ families.

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.

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