Attempted murder suspect granted continuance at change of plea hearing

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Court dates for a local man accused of trying to kill a Columbus police officer will be delayed until March.

Jacob D. Rice, 39, who was residing in the 700 block of Reed St. when arrested, is accused of firing a handgun at Columbus Police Sgt. Lukas Nibarger early last summer as the officer was investigating suspicious activity in the Forest Park neighborhood.

In a probable cause affidavit, investigators with the Indiana State Police state it appears Rice, who was caught looking through a house window at about 4 a.m. on June 24,, fired while Nibarger was identifying himself as a law enforcement officer. Rice was hospitalized for a gunshot wound after the incident, and still had a visible limp Monday as he walked into the courtroom.

In connection with the incident in Forest Park, Rice is charged with attempted murder as a Level 1 felony, criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon as a Level 6 felony and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon as a Level 4 felony.

Beginning late last summer, six scheduled hearings were held in Bartholomew Circuit Court regarding legal representation for the defendant. Rice repeatedly asked the court for more time to secure the services of a private attorney.

But on Dec. 15, it was determined the defendant did not have the financial resources to hire his own lawyer. While Special Judge Roger Duvall appointed Michael DeArmitt as Rice’s public defender, another special judge allowed DeArmitt to be dismissed from the case six days later. Judge Joe Meek then appointed Chris Monroe to handle Rice’s defense on Dec. 21.

In court Monday before Judge Kelly Benjamin, Monroe told the judge he has not been given adequate time to prepare a defense for either a change of plea hearing that day, nor for a jury trial tentatively set for Feb. 1.

Benjamin and Deputy Prosecutor Joshua Scherschel agreed with the requested continuances. A pre-trial conference or change of plea hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, March 3 at 1:30 p.m., while a new tentative trial date is set for Tuesday, March 29 at 8:30 a.m.

For the complete story, see Tuesday’s Republic.