Murder suspect’s hearing delayed


At the request of both the defense and prosecution, a change of plea hearing was postponed at the last moment for accused killer Patrick E. Doyle.

The most serious charge filed in Bartholomew Circuit Court against the 38-year-old defendant is murder. Doyle is accused of killing Heather Ann Steuver, 37, and hiding his live-in girlfriend’s remains under a shallow layer of dirt and sand.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the body was found Sept. 9 after Doyle told investigators where he tried to hide it at a local sand and gravel company. The defendant also said he threw several of her possessions in a nearby lake, investigators stated.

In order to keep the woman’s death from being known, Doyle would send text messages on her phone to people she knew, including himself, according to the affidavit.

Doyle told investigators he was unsure how he took Steuver’s life because he was intoxicated, court documents state. However, Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting ruled the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

As he did during the Sept. 21 initial hearing, the defendant avoided direct eye contact with members of Steuver’s family who were sitting in the courtroom.

During Monday’s hearing, deputy prosecutor Josh Scherschel said he wasn’t prepared to move ahead until after he meets with a forensic examiner on Jan. 12.

Public defender Don Edwards said he and Scherschel are still in the the process of discovery. In a criminal case, that is a term referring to obtaining the evidence the other side plans to present.

If prosecutors find exculpatory evidence that is material to the case, they have a constitutional duty to disclose it to the defense.

Special Judge Joe Meek agreed to postpone the hearings until early spring. He scheduled a pre-trial conference for March 21 at 11 a.m. A tentative trial date has been pushed back to April 26, with jury selection scheduled to get underway at 8:30 a.m.

Meek reminded those in the court that Doyle has three additional open cases filed against him.

On Jan 13, 2000, Doyle received a six-year jail term after pleading guilty to burglary as a Level 5 felony. But half of the sentence was suspended. The judge will eventually decide whether to reinstate the entire sentence.

Next is the discovery of child pornography late last summer on Doyle’s cellphone. That is a Level 6 felony that carries a potential sentence of six months to two-and-a-half years incarceration, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

It was Doyle’s responses while being questioned on the child pornography charge that, according to the probable cause affidavit, led to his confession about Steuver’s death.

Finally, Doyle is facing a Class B misdemeanor of battery by bodily waste. On Monday, the defendant agreed to waive his right to an initial hearing on the non-felony charge, which carries a maximum 180 day sentence and a $1,000 fine.