The pending murder case against 35-year-old Andres Gonzalez Jr. appears to be headed to Allen County, according to a ruling Wednesday morning by a Noble Superior Court judge.
Judge Robert Kirsch ordered the case transferred to Allen County. Court documents allege Gonzalez killed 36-year old Erin Justin in a Fort Wayne garage.
In July 2011, Justin’s body was pulled from a rural Noble County lake, about a month and 30 miles away from where she last was seen. She had been tied to a concrete block before she was dumped in the water, and drugs were in her system.
An autopsy was inconclusive as to cause and manner of death, and no location of the death has been determined.
What Noble County prosecutors have are the statements of witnesses, including Gonzalez and his brother, Victor Gonzalez. Using those statements, they charged Andres Gonzalez with murder and removing the body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death.
Victor Gonzalez, 32, also is charged with moving the body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death. He told police earlier this year he helped his older brother move the body, already covered in cardboard and plastic and starting to smell, from the garage in the 3300 block of Holton Avenue to Bartley Lake.
Andres Gonzalez’s attorney, Noble County Chief Public Defender James Abbs, argued in a written motion and in a hearing that 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.
Abbs argued the case should be dismissed outright, but in lieu of that be sent to Allen County for trial.
Noble County Prosecutor Steve Clouse, through his deputy, J. Everett Newman, argued Tuesday at the hearing that Noble County had a duty and a requirement to investigate the matter once Justin’s body was discovered in the local lake. Even though the information about where or how she died remains inconclusive at this time, the body was last handled in Noble County and the case should be tried there.
On Wednesday, Kirsch granted Abbs’ motion for the transfer after taking the issue under advisement Tuesday.
For more on this story, see Thursday’s print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Thursday.