News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 9, 2013

Aug. 5 trial set for suspects linked to death of police officer

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — An Aug. 5 trial date has been set for five defendants facing criminal charges in connection with the July 2011 shooting death of a Terre Haute Police officer.

Vigo County chief deputy prosecutor Rob Roberts along with defense attorneys for Jenny Torres, Charles Elkins, Jesse Padgett II, Heather Elkins and Roberta Utterback convened Friday morning with Monroe Superior Court Judge Marc Kellams in Vigo Superior Court 3.

The cases have been venued to Monroe County after the defense attorneys claimed that public outrage and pretrial publicity have made it unlikely that they would receive fair trials in Vigo County.

Kellams said Friday that future hearings and trials will be conducted in Monroe County, but he chose to travel to Vigo County for Friday’s hearing rather than have the five defendants transported from the Vigo County Jail to Bloomington.

Kellams stated that he understands that some deposition issues have cropped up with the federal government, and it is unclear how quickly federal agents involved in the case will be deposed. However, the judge said he wanted to get the cases on a timetable, and set pretrial conference dates of May 10 and July 19 in Monroe County to check the progress of the cases.

The attorneys are now trying to coordinate depositions of witnesses to the events on the day that Terre Haute Police officer Brent Long was shot and killed by a federal fugitive.

Long and his K-9 partner Shadow were both shot inside a house on North Eighth Street in Terre Haute when a federal fugitive task force attempted to serve a warrant on a known suspect, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting Long. Shadow recovered from his wound and has been retired as a canine officer.

Torres, Charles Elkins, Padgett, Utterback and Heather Elkins were inside the house on that day, and were removed from the dwelling by police only minutes before the shooting death of Long.

Torres, Padgett and Charles Elkins have been charged with class-D felony and class-A misdemeanor charges of resisting law enforcement, as well as class-B misdemeanor charges of visiting a common nuisance.

Heather Elkins faces charges of possession of methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance, receiving stolen property, resisting arrest and possession of paraphernalia.

Utterback has been charged with assisting a criminal and resisting law enforcement. She also has other criminal cases stemming from unrelated allegations.

All five were indicted by a federal grand jury for their actions on the day of the shooting. They all entered guilty pleas and received federal prison sentences. Utterback, Charles Elkins and Heather Elkins have served their federal sentences and are being held in the Vigo County Jail on their local charges. Padgett remains in federal custody. Torres has served her federal sentence and has been released from the county jail to await resolution of her local charges.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.