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Chuckie Fleming found not guilty in Beloit murder trial.

 

Chuck Fleming Trial – Sixth Day

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

 

By Terry Bailey

 


 

On the night of August 15, 2003 local business woman, Carol Fleming, came home from a night out with her boyfriend, had some breakfast and then went to bed. Between the time she went to bed and three o’clock a.m. while she was sleeping, someone shot her in the head at point blank range with a 12 gauge shotgun, killing her instantly. A 911 call was made by her boyfriend, Rick Harris, at 3:19 a.m. Within five minutes Eric Hilt, Mitchell County deputy, was on the scene. Over the next ten to twenty minutes a cadre of law enforcement officers, including KBI Special Agent Bill Pettijohn, Mitchell County Sheriff Doug Daugherty, and Beloit Chief of Police Frank Ghent, were present and processing the crime scene.

 

Pettijohn called for help from fellow KBI officers and within a day agents specializing in fingerprint analysis, blood stains, firearms, and crime scene analysis were providing expert analysis. Pettijohn interviewed almost one hundred witnesses hoping to gain critical information.

 

As time passed the intensity of crime scene analysis and interviewing potential witnesses slowed. Virtually everything to be examined had been examined, logged, and secured in the evidence locker. As they say on TV, the case went cold. Over the ensuing fifteen and one-half years an occasional lead would arise. Pettijohn and his crew would investigate the lead only to be stymied.

 

Word spread in the summer of 2018 that new evidence had surfaced in the case. Chuck Fleming, now living in the Kansas City area, was arrested and brought back to Beloit. A preliminary hearing was conducted over several days to determine if sufficient evidence existed to warrant a trial. At the end of the hearing the Honorable Debra Wright ruled that sufficient evidence existed to call for a trial. She set the date for the trial to begin on February 19, 2019. Six days were planned for the trial.

 

The trial opened at 9 a.m. on February 19th. Mitchell County Attorney Mark Noah represented the State of Kansas and was the prosecutor. Noah was assisted by Jennifer O’Hare, Lincoln County attorney. Fleming was defended by Julie Effenbeck who was assisted by Bryan Weinbrenner. Day one of the trial was devoted to jury selection. Fourteen jurors were impaneled consisting of twelve jurors and two alternates.

 

Over the next four days forty witnesses were called to tell about their recollections of the night of August 15-16, 2003. It became evident that the Fleming home was a “party house,” particularly on the weekend. A number of witnesses remembered going there often after the bars closed for even more socializing and drinking. Beer, marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs were easy to find. People came and went in and out of the house, talking in the kitchen and congregating around the hot tub on the back deck. The night of Carol’s death was not particularly different from these nights.

 

At 3:19 am on August 16, 2003, Rick Harris testified he awoke feeling a mist on his face and arm. He got up and looked around seeing nothing. When he turned to back into the bedroom he saw Carol on the bed with a horrible head wound. He called 911. He would tell the officers that he never heard a gunshot blast. His son David was asleep on the couch in the adjoining living room and he did not hear the discharge of a shotgun. When officer Hilt arrived he had Harris and his son go outside where Chad and Chuck were. When the other officers arrived the scene was secured. The witnesses took their own transportation to the Law Enforcement Center where they were interviewed.

 

In his closing arguments Noah said the case was one of greed and death. He said Chuck Fleming wanted the inheritance his dad left for him immediately and could not get it until his mother died. So he killed her.

 

Julie Effenbeck asked, “Did you hear anything new over the past few days?” She said this case has always been built upon circumstantial evidence. She said, “You cannot convict on this small amount of evidence. If there is reasonable doubt, you must find Chuck not guilty. A person is viewed as innocent until proven guilty.”

 


 

Judge Cudney, in her directions to the jury, said their job was to weight the evidence presented and make a decision. For a verdict of guilty the prosecution must have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. “If you have reasonable doubt, you must find the person not guilty.”

 

The jury would have several obvious inconsistencies with which to deal. The testimony of Rick Harris that he did not hear the discharge of a 12 gauge shotgun only inches from his head was a hard sell in hunting country. Some people testified that when they arrived at the Fleming house that night the house was dark and unlighted while others said the lights were on. Some people said the TV was on and blaring while others said the TV was not turned on. The Fleming house was known to never be locked but several people found the doors locked that night. The coroner testified that there is no accurate method of determining time of death. The 911 call came in at 3:19 am. Does that mean the murder occurred at that time or could it have been 2:19 am or 1:19am? Many of the witnesses at the Fleming house reported arriving there after spending the evening drinking and partying and perhaps smoking marijuana. Would this affect their credibility or their memory? Finally, fifteen years is a long time to remember the exact details of that night. Would the passage of time affect the quality of their testimony? These and many other inconsistencies made reasonable doubt a possibility.

 

Cudney dismissed the jury to deliberate at 4:47 pm on Monday, February 25. At 8 o’clock pm the jury had not reached a verdict so Cudney sent them home. They returned at 9 o’clock Tuesday morning. Mid-morning on Tuesday, the jurors requested the testimonies of Justin Paul, Aaron Cox, and Chad Fleming be read back to them in their entirety. After listening to the re-read of those testimonies, the jury went back to the jury room to continue their deliberation. At 1:48 pm the jury was ushered into the courtroom. Their written verdict was given to the Clerk of Court, Pam Thiessen. Judge Cudney cautioned those in the courtroom to exercise restraint when the verdict was read.

 

Thiessen read the verdict that Chuck Fleming was not guilty. Judge Cudney confirmed that, as required, it was unanimous verdict and she was told it was.

 

This means that the person who brutally murdered Carol Fleming is walking around as a free person.

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