Defense requests change of venue

GREENFIELD — A Greenfield mother charged in the death of her 1-year-old daughter has asked a judge to move her case from Hancock County because she has faced “public hostility” and believes she will not get a fair trial here, court records state.

Jessica Wagoner, who is charged in the death of her daughter, Zoey Wagoner, has filed a motion asking Hancock County Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow to change where her trial will be held. A hearing on the request is scheduled for July 15.

Zoey Wagoner was found dead in her parents’ home late last month, and medical reports show she died of blunt-force trauma. Her death was ruled a homicide. Jessica Wagoner, 32, and her husband, Matthew Wagoner, 31, have been charged with murder and neglect.

Should the couple’s case go to trial in Greenfield as scheduled in October, jury members would be residents of Hancock County.

Philip Sheward, Wagoner’s attorney, submitted the motion to move the case on his client’s behalf. In the request, he said public perception of Jessica Wagoner might have been swayed by “prejudicial news reporting or editorializing” of the case.

He provided the judge 19 supporting documents including online articles and social media threads he believes illustrate the “public outrage over the offense” and Hancock County residents’ “speculative opinions as to the personality and character” of Jessica Wagoner.

Sheward also said Jessica Wagoner has faced the “disclosure of inadmissible evidence.” This likely refers to coverage related to her husband’s criminal history, which includes a pending child molestation and exploitation case and a domestic violence conviction in Henry County.

Matthew Wagoner pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery and served 65 days in jail after he was accused of attempting to choke a woman in May 2012, according to court documents.

The Wagoners then moved to New Castle, where police officers investigated Matthew Wagoner after a young girl reported she was fondled while staying the night at his home in November 2013, court documents show. The girl also said she saw the man who fondled her having sex with another young girl, police said.

Matthew Wagoner is charged with two counts of child molestation in the case, which is pending. The first count is a Class A felony carrying a penalty of 20 to 50 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines; the second is a Class C felony with a penalty of two to eight years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

In January 2014, two women told New Castle police officers they found pictures of a naked young girl on a man’s cellphone, court documents state. Matthew Wagoner is charged with child exploitation in that case, a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of two to eight years and up to $10,000 in fines.

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton declined to comment on Jessica Wagoner’s motion to the judge, but he said trials being moved from Hancock County are rare.

If Jessica Wagoner’s trial were to be relocated, Eaton and his office would still prosecute the case; a change of location would yield a different jury pool.

Both Jessica and Matthew Wagoner have pleaded not guilty to the murder and neglect charges they face in Hancock County. If convicted, they face up to 100 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.

They return to court for a hearing in July.

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