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Noble murder venue appealed

Decision could be months away; defense seeks bail

A. Gonzalez

The Indiana Court of Appeals will weigh in on whether a Noble County murder case gets to stay in Noble County.

But with the decision to hear the appeal likely to drag the case out for the most of the rest of the year, attorneys for 35-year-old Andres Gonzalez Jr. want him to have the opportunity to post bail.

Since his arrest in March, Gonzalez has been held without bail in the Noble County Jail on charges of murder and removing a body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death.

His younger brother, Victor Gonzalez, 32, is charged with assisting a criminal and removing a body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death.

Andres Gonzalez is accused of killing 36-year-old Erin R. Justin in June 2011, moving her body to Noble County and dumping it in a rural lake.

Justin was last seen in June 2011, reported missing by her fiancé, with whom she shared a motel room. Court documents say Andres Gonzalez picked her up as she was walking along Bluffton Road in Fort Wayne.

He told investigators he took her to a garage on Holton Avenue where he physically attacked her, and when she became unresponsive, he thought she was dead.

He reportedly called his brother to help dispose of the body and when Victor Gonzalez arrived at the garage, he saw her covered in cardboard and plastic, according to court documents.

The two are accused of driving her about 30 miles north and dumping her weighted body in Bartley Lake, where it was discovered about a month later.

An autopsy was inconclusive as to how she died and whether her death was an accident or a homicide.

According to documents, there were enough drugs in her system to have killed her.

And when she went into the water, the anchor tied to her leg could have caused her to drown.

Noble County Prosecutor Steve Clouse charged the brothers with the crimes in late March after a tip in the case.

But shortly after Andres Gonzalez was charged with murder, Noble County Public Defender James Abbs filed a motion to have the case either dismissed or transferred to Allen County, where the slaying is alleged to have occurred.

Noble Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch granted the request to transfer the case and ordered it packed up and sent to Allen County.

Clouse asked to appeal that decision, and the Indiana Court of Appeals this month agreed to hear the case. Because of the type of appeal, it will be given a higher priority before the court, but it still could take months before a decision is made.

It will likely be more than a couple of months before both sides have their briefs filed for the court to even review it, officials said.

On July 2, Abbs asked the court to consider giving Andres Gonzalez the ability to bond out of jail.

He argued that Gonzalez has no extensive criminal history and has a constitutional right to bail, even in a murder case.

He asked the judge to schedule a hearing for the state to provide evidence of the probability Gonzalez committed the crime. A hearing has been set on that matter for early August.

The case against Victor Gonzalez has been delayed until the appellate court rules in his brother’s case, according to court records.

rgreen@jg.net

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