ALBION – Noble Superior Court Judge Robert E. Kirsch must now decide what to do with the murder case against 35-year-old Andres Gonzalez Jr.
At issue is whether the judge will grant a defense request to either dismiss the case against the Fort Wayne resident or move it to Allen County, where the summer 2011 death of Erin Justin may have occurred.
Witnesses mentioned in probable cause affidavits and other information, including Gonzalez and his brother, claim the 36-year-old Justin was dead and wrapped in carpet and plastic and tied to a concrete block inside a car in a Fort Wayne garage when the Gonzalez brothers took her about 30 miles north and dumped her in a rural Noble County lake.
Justin’s body was pulled from Bartley Lake about a month after she was last scene by her fiancé, having left their motel room to visit a friend.
An autopsy was inconclusive as to how she died and whether her death was an accident or a homicide.
In March, Andres Gonzalez was charged with murder and removing the body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death. His brother, 32-year-old Victor Gonzalez was also charged with removing the body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death, as well as assisting a criminal.
A few weeks ago, Noble County Chief Public Defender James Abbs, who represents Andres Gonzales, filed a motion to dismiss the case or move it back to Allen County.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kirsch heard arguments from Abbs and Noble County Deputy Prosecutor J. Everett Newman regarding the matter.
As he had in his motion, Abbs argued the issue boils down to a constitutional right. While Indiana law allows the crime of murder to be tried in the county where the body is discovered, the state’s constitution provides those charged with a crime the right to be tried in the county where the crime is alleged to have occurred.
“This death occurred in Allen County. The defendant has a right to have a trial in Allen County,” Abbs said.
All the information presented to the court thus far for the purpose of determining probable cause for the charges of murder refers to either the death having occurred in Allen County or the inconclusive reports by the pathologist.
But Newman said no evidence has yet been presented in the case, rather just information. And there has been enough information, he argued, to know that the case began in Noble County and should be tried there.
“We do not know what the facts are,” Newman said. “Whoever last handled (the victim’s body) last handled it here. And Noble County was required to act by state law.”
Kirsch questioned both attorneys about their positions but seemed to reserve most of his questions for the prosecution. After the hearing, the judge took the matter under advisement and promised a ruling at a later date.