COLUMBIA CITY — The suspected killer of a 14-year-old Whitley County girl will likely not be tried Jan. 25 as scheduled.
In a pre-trial conference Monday morning, Whitley County Circuit Court Judge James Heuer heard motions from Public Defender Brad Voelz, who said he didn’t believe his client, Joshua M. Wright, could get a fair trial in Whitley County.
Voelz requested a change of venue, although he admitted he didn’t think moving the trial to a neighboring county would help, given the high-profile nature of the case.
“All the prerequisites for the court to grant a change of venue are present here in Whitley County,” said Voelz.
“Everyone in the state of Indiana has been exposed to prejudicial news reporting,” said Voelz.
Voelz cited a three-part series in The Post & Mail as the reason for his change of venue request.
On the other side of the courtroom, County Prosecutor Matt Rentschler dismissed Voelz’s claims.
“I don’t find anything in these documents that won’t be brought out in the trial,” said Rentschler.
“They’ve seen nothing in those articles that they won’t hear in the trial.”
Another request was made by Voelz for jurors to be selected from outside the county.
Heuer denied the change of venue request, but said he thought a precedent was set regarding where to draw the jury pool.
Heuer said he had a similar case several years ago involving the same two attorneys and had to go outside the county for jurors when no agreement could be made on a local panel.
One more hurdle exists before a trial can begin. The defense is seeking to call Wright’s mental competence into question.
While Wright has been evaluated locally, Voelz said the defense is seeking input from other “experts.”
Heuer told the attorneys to check schedules and said he hopes to have competency hearing around Jan. 27 or 28.
He added that he was sensitive to family members of the victim who desire justice as quickly as possible in the 10-month-old case.
Wright is accused of raping and killing 14-year-old Kaylin Doggendorf in March of last year.