Murder suspect nonresponsive in first court appearance


A local man charged with murder in a fatal shooting last week was largely silent and nonresponsive during an initial hearing Monday in Bartholomew Circuit Court.

Corbin W. Hippensteel, 30, whose last address of record is 1951 McKinley Ave., but gave his address as homeless to investigators, is charged with murder in the shooting death of of Alejandro Flores, 54. Flores died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head at 2630 Joseph Cox Court, where Hippensteel had been staying with his grandfather, according to court records.

Wearing a red jail jumper and ankle and wrist shackles, Hippensteel was escorted from the Bartholomew County Jail for his first court appearance since his arrest Nov. 27. His grandfather, Danny W. Sanders, had called 911 after fleeing from the shooting scene, according to court records, and Columbus Police found Hippensteel a short time later walking in the Homestead Mobile Home Park where the shooting occurred. Police said Hippensteel was arrested without incident.

Monday, when Bartholomew Circuit Judge Kelly Benjamin called for Hippensteel, he sat motionless, even after a deputy directed him to walk to the defense table. The deputy physically lifted Hippensteel by the arm, walked him to the table and assisted with lowering him into his seat.

After Benjamin asked his name, Hippensteel initially said nothing before providing his first name, later his surname. He gave little or no response as Benjamin asked routine initial hearing questions such as his age, whether he can read or write, whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and others.

“OK, the court’s getting no response,” Benjamin said at one point. She then directed questions to jail officers, who said Hippensteel had been assessed by a jail nurse and that Hippensteel had not been talkative at the jail.

“For the record, he’s not answering,” Benjamin said after asking Hippensteel if he had gone to school.

Benjamin continued Hippensteel’s initial hearing to 8:30 a.m. Thursday and appointed Greenwood attorney Joseph Villanueva to represent him.

Hippensteel was returned to the Bartholomew County Jail, where he remains held without bond.

Columbus police responded to 911 calls at about 4:45 p.m. Nov. 27, finding Flores in a chair with multiple gunshot wounds to the head, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Friday.

Hippensteel’s grandfather, Danny W. Sanders, had called 911 after he said he fled from the trailer where Hippensteel allegedly shot Flores, authorities said.

“Sanders advised that Hippensteel has mental health issues and believed he had been drinking liquor since (Nov. 26) due to finding an almost empty half gallon,” a CPD detective wrote in the probable cause affidavit.

Sanders told the officer that Hippensteel had been “ranting and raving and upset all day. Sanders advised that his friend ‘Alex’ (Flores) had come over to visit that evening and had only been there about 5 or 10 minutes when Hippensteel came out of a back room.”

There was conversation between Flores and Hippensteel but no arguing that he heard, Sanders told police, when Hippensteel suddenly threatened to shoot Flores in the head and pulled a revolver from his pocket, the affidavit says.

“Sanders advised that he heard a ‘click’ as if the trigger had been pulled, and began to yell at Hippensteel that he should not have a gun and to get out of the house. Sanders started to move toward Hippensteel and then heard a shot go off,” after which he saw Flores had been shot, according to the affidavit.

“Sanders stated he immediately ran from the home and heard additional shots. Sanders was afraid and heard Hippensteel yelling for him and ran to a stranger’s house where he asked to call 911,” the affidavit said.

Police on Nov. 28 executed a search warrant and found a .22 revolver between the bed mattresses as well as empty shell casings and unfired rounds in the room where Hippensteel was staying, according to the affidavit.

Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting said a forensic autopsy concluded the preliminary cause of Flores’ death was multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Nolting also said toxicology results are pending.

“A search warrant was also obtained for a homeless camp in a wooded area south of Rocky Ford Road and east of Marr Road where Hippensteel was believed to be staying in the time leading up to the homicide,” according to the affidavit.

“During the execution of that warrant, in the tent believed to belong to Hippensteel based on prior police contacts, investigators found property in the name of Hippensteel, as well as additional .22 caliber ammunition similar to that found in the firearm located at the scene,” Foust wrote.

Online court records show Hippensteel, formerly of North Vernon, has a criminal record related to cases in Jennings County.

He was charged in December 2020 with felony counts of intimidation and criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon as well as misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

According to online court records, those charges were dismissed in April of 2022, one year after Hippensteel agreed to participate in a pretrial diversion program.

Prior to that case, in June of 2019, Hippensteel was charged with misdemeanor battery. That same month, Hippensteel entered a pretrial diversion agreement, and the battery charge was dismissed in February 2023.