North Vernon biker gang leader gets 120 years for murder

MADISON — A North Vernon man who led a criminal biker gang has been sentenced to 120 years in prison for a murder conviction stemming from a 2021 gang-related shootout in Dupont.

Michael J. “Billy Goat” Karnuth, 34, was sentenced this week in Jefferson Circuit Court in Madison for the June 22, 2021 killing of Dustin B. Lindner, 35, of Georgetown, Kentucky. Authorities said Lindner was a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club who had accompanied Karnuth and others who had planned to attack another motorcycle club gang member.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Donald J. Mote on Wednesday sentenced Karnuth to 60 years on the murder charge enhanced by another 60 years because Karnuth also was determined to be a member of a criminal organization whose crimes furthered the interests of the organization. A jury had convicted Karnuth on all counts last month, which included murder, attempted burglary committed while armed with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery committed while armed with a deadly weapon, and obstruction of justice.

Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter said in a statement, “This is a significant sentence which all but ensures a dangerous man will no longer be a threat to our community.”

According to evidence presented at trial, Karnuth was president of the Heavy Hitters chapter of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club. Trouble started when Karnuth talked with another man, Shawn Rudis, outside a gas station in North Vernon. Rudis showed Karnuth his tattoos associated with the Warlocks, “and was, by his own admission, antagonistic toward Billy Goat,” acccording to the probable cause affidavit filed in court by Indiana State Police.

After this confrontation, in which other local gang members became involved, Karnuth “spent weeks gathering information on Rudis’ whereabouts and organizing the pursuit of Rudis,” according to Sutter. When Rudis had been located, Karnuth and three other gang members, including Lindner, met at Karnuth’s residence at Country Squire Lakes in the 2100 block of Country Manor Street in North Vernon.

Believing Rudis wasn’t a club member, investigators said one of the people who met at Karnuth’s residence told them that Lindner persuaded the group to “go down there, beat the (expletive) out of (Rudis), take his (expletive), and leave.”

This person also told investigators that when he asked Karnuth why the group needed to take guns, Karnuth replied, “he was prepared to shoot back, if needed,” the affidavit said. The group also planned to ensure that Rudis’ tattoos associated with the Warlocks and Pagans motorcycle clubs “were removed,” the affidavit says.

Subsequently, a group of five biker gang members arrived at Rudis’ residence on John Deere Road in Dupont, about 10 miles south of North Vernon, around midnight June 22, 2021.

Investigators said those who arrived on the scene walked the property looking for Rudis, who was waiting with a rifle inside a shed.

“Rudis remained in the shed, and saw a shadow begin to open a tarp that was covering the entrance of the shed. Rudis stated that he then fired a shot towards the shadow and that he heard a groan,” the affidavit said. “He stated that he didn’t hear anything else for what he believed to be a couple of minutes, and then multiple shots were fired into the shed.

“Rudis stated that he then called 911. While he was on the phone with 911, Rudis stated that he fired an additional shot,” which hit one of the gang member’s vehicles, the affidavit said. Rudis “started screaming at them and … after a while the vehicles left.”

When authorities arrived, they found Lindner on the property fatally wounded. Rudis told authorities he believed he also had been shot, but investigators said he had sustained just scratches and cuts.

Authorities soon executed a search warrant on Karnuth’s residence that turned up evidence connected to firearms that had been ditched after the shootout, as well as Warlocks Motorcycle Club evidence, including clothing and business cards. State Police investigators also found Lindner’s vehicle at Karnuth’s residence.

Investigators also followed up on a trail of evidence that included a crash involving gang members’ vehicles as they retreated from the shootout scene, and witness accounts of efforts to conceal or destroy evidence after the crime.

Among other things, Indiana State Police used crash reconstructionists to identify vehicles involved in the incident and dive teams to recover pieces of guns used in the crime. ISP divers found parts of guns used in the crime that had been tossed into waterways from the Vernon Fork of the Muscatatuck River to the big lake at Country Squire Lakes.

“The conviction and sentence is a direct result of the outstanding investigation conducted by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Indiana State Police,” Sutter said.