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Brother pleads to body removal

V. Gonzalez
A. Gonzalez

One of two men accused in the June 2011 death of a Fort Wayne woman pleaded guilty this week in a Noble County courtroom.

After pleading guilty to removing the body from the scene of a vio­lent or suspicious death, Victor Manuel Gonzalez, 32, waived his right to a pre-sentence in­ves­tigation and was immediately sen­tenced to three years in prison.

A more serious charge of assisting a criminal was dismissed as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

According to court documents, Gon­za­lez and his old­er brother, Andres Gonzalez, 36, are accused of dump­ing the body of 36-year-old Erin Justin in a rural Noble County lake in summer 2011.

Andres Gonzalez is charged with murder in connection with her death, as well as removing a body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death.

In pleading guilty to the crime, Victor Gonzalez had to admit the ele­ments of the charges, one of which was that the crime occurred in Noble County. His plea came Thursday in Noble Circuit Court in what had been scheduled as a bond hearing and a pretrial conference.

Whether Andres Gonza­lez killed Justin in Allen Coun­ty or Noble County is a matter of debate.

Andres Gonzalez told investigators he picked up Justin while she was walking along a Fort Wayne road. He said he attacked Justin in a Fort Wayne garage, then called his brother to help dispose of the body, according to court documents.

Victor Gonzalez told authorities that when he arrived at the garage, Justin’s body was covered in cardboard and plastic.

The documents say the men drove Justin from Fort Wayne to rural Noble County and dumped her body, tied to a concrete block, in Bartley Lake. She was found 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. When she went into the water, the anchor tied to her leg could have caused her to drown.

A few weeks after Andres Gonzalez was charged, his attorney filed a motion to have the case 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.

Noble County Prosecutor Steve 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 a decision still could be months away.

While the case against him awaits that decision, Andres Gonzalez’s attorney, Noble County public defender James Abbs, asked the judge to review the matter of his client’s bond. A hearing has been set for next month.

rgreen@jg.netOne of two men accused in the June 2011 death of a Fort Wayne woman pleaded guilty this week in a Noble County courtroom.

After pleading guilty to removing the body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death, Victor Manuel Gonzalez, 32, waived his right to a pre-sentence investigation and was immediately sentenced to three years in prison. A more serious charge of assisting a criminal was dismissed as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

According to court documents, Victor Manuel Gonzalez and his older brother, Andres Gonzalez, 36, are accused of dumping the body of 36-year-old Erin Justin in a rural Noble County lake in the summer of 2011.

Andres Gonzalez is charged with murder in connection with her death, as well as removing a body from the scene of a violent or suspicious death.

In pleading guilty to the crime, Victor Gonzalez had to admit the elements of the charges, one of which was that the crime occurred in Noble County. His plea came Thursday in Noble Circuit Court in what had been scheduled as a bond hearing and a pre-trial conference.

Whether Andres Gonzalez killed Justin, whom he told investigators he picked up while she was walking along a Fort Wayne road, in Allen County or Noble County is a matter of debate.

According to court documents, Andres Gonzalez said he attacked Justin in a Fort Wayne garage and called his brother to help dispose of the body. Victor Gonzalez told authorities when he arrived at the garage, Justin’s body was covered in cardboard and plastic.

According to court documents, the two men drove Justin from Fort Wayne to rural Noble County and dumped her body in Bartley Lake, tied to a concrete block. She was found 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.

A few weeks after Andres Gonzalez was charged, his attorney 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.

Noble County Prosecutor Steve 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.

While the case against him awaits the higher court decision, Andres Gonzalez’s attorney, Noble County Public Defender James Abbs asked the judge to review the matter of his client’s bond. A hearing on that matter has been set for early next month.

rgreen@jg.net

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