Gonzales trial ends with guilty plea

GREENFIELD — Faced with a selected jury and charged with murder, Amanda Gonzales changed her mind in the final moments.

The 28-year-old Indianapolis woman was set to begin trial Monday for orchestrating the murder of her romantic rival. Witnesses have said Gonzales couldn’t go through with shooting 23-year-old Katrina Miller and handed the gun over at the last minute.

Monday, with a jury in place to hear the proceedings, Gonzales backed out, choosing instead to enter into an agreement with the prosecutor.

Following jury selection, the state and defense came to an agreement to avoid a trial.

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton agreed to drop the murder charges against Gonzales if she would plead guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder.

Gonzales entered an open plea of guilty to the two charges Monday afternoon and is scheduled to return to court for sentencing May 20. On that date, both sides of the case will make arguments before Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow as to the amount of time Gonzales should serve. Snow will make the final determination.

Between the two charges, Gonzales faces between 20 and 56 years in prison and more than $10,000 in fines. She’ll be required to serve 75 percent of her sentence.

Prosecutors said these charges are more in line with Gonzales’ involvement in the murder, and they believe it was the best approach for their case and the victim’s family.

“There is always a risk associated with litigation,” Eaton said. “With this, she’s guilty, and she’s going to stay guilty. There is no possibility of coming back with an appeal.”

Gonzales is the third person to be taken to court in Miller’s murder.

Shooter Joe Meyers represented himself in a two-week trial last fall and was convicted of murder and kidnapping. Meyers shot Miller in the head with a .380-caliber handgun belonging to Gonzales, investigators said. He is serving a 75-year sentence in an Indiana Department of Correction facility.

Ronnie Westbrook accepted a plea agreement that is pending with the court. He pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal, and the terms required him to testify against Gonzales. He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.

Hancock County deputy prosecutor John Keiffner said in court Monday that, while Gonzales did not pull the trigger to kill Miller, she agreed to commit the crime and needed to be held accountable for her actions.

The plot to kill Miller is believed to have begun when Gonzales became enraged after finding Miller in a hotel room with Westbrook, Gonzales’ former boyfriend.

On an evening last July, Meyers, Westbrook and Gonzales persuaded Miller to enter Meyers’ vehicle, and the four drove together from Marion County to Hancock County, Keiffner said in court.

Gonzales said she knew Meyers was armed at the time. She also knew of the plans to shoot Miller and leave her body in a Hancock County cornfield, Keiffner said.

Gonzales intentionally drove Westbrook, who was wearing a state-issued GPS bracelet, away from the scene. This action also meant she removed Miller’s only means of escape, Keiffner said.

Gonzales told Snow this was an accurate depiction of what occurred in July.

After Gonzales’s last-minute change of heart in the courtroom, defense attorney Robert Beymar said he thought the agreement was in the best interest of his client.

“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and I like to call these ‘come to Jesus moments,’” he said. “A lot of times people don’t want to own up to it until they absolutely have to.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.