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Homicide, molesting cases loom in county courts

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GREENFIELD — A number of high-profile criminal cases will make their way through the Hancock County court system this year, including the county’s first homicide in five years and two separate molesting cases against prominent members of the community.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up in 2013:


Colby McKnelly:  Charged with murder

Although one count of murder and six other charges were filed less than two weeks ago against Colby McKnelly, the Greenfield man accused of stabbing his friend to death already has a trial date on the calendar.

McKnelly, 26, of Greenfield, requested a speedy trial during his initial hearing on Christmas Eve, when he pleaded not guilty to the following charges: murder; criminal confinement; battery resulting in serious bodily injury; strangulation; criminal confinement; intimidation and domestic battery.

A speedy trial guarantees McKnelly a trial date within 70 days, as long as the defendant remains in jail, Hancock County Prosecutor Michael Griffin said.

The speedy-trial request may be withdrawn if the defendant chooses.

The trial is scheduled for Feb. 26 in Hancock Circuit Court. McKnelly is being held without bond.

McKnelly was arrested the day after police found Steven Rogers, 26, of Indianapolis, dead of apparent stab wounds and a skull fracture in McKnelly’s home in the first block of North Broadway Street.

McKnelly also suffered stab wounds, as did his girlfriend, Jessi Parsons-Freeman, 27, of Greenfield, before Rogers was killed. Parsons-Freeman serves as the sole eyewitness against McKnelly, who she said stabbed both her and Rogers during various arguments over the course of the trio’s evening together. Parsons-Freeman was not seriously injured and provided little information on a motive for why McKnelly attacked Rogers, according to court documents.

Rogers also stabbed McKnelly during the struggle, and the suspect underwent surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis prior to his arrest the next day.

McKnelly returns to court for a pre-trial conference at 8:30 a.m. Monday. The hearing is open to the public.


Bryan Turner – Charged with child molesting

The case against Bryan Turner, a former fitness assistant at Doe Creek Middle School, was filed more than a year ago and is expected to wrap up in the coming months.

Defendants are generally guaranteed the right to a trial within a year of when charges are filed, but that date is bumped if the defendant requests a continuance, Griffin said.

The case has been continued four times, twice at Turner’s request, according to court records.

Turner, 54, of Greenfield, is accused of fondling a young boy during a gym class at Doe Creek Middle School in October 2010.

The boy had been struck in the groin during a game of dodge ball and was complaining of severe pain and nausea.

 Turner took the boy to a training room in the boys’ locker room and shut the door behind them, according to court documents. There, the affidavit states, Turner fondled the boy.

Turner first began working for the district in 1980. He stayed until 1983 as a substitute teacher and assistant wrestling coach.

After leaving New Palestine, Turner served as a head wrestling coach for the Greenfield-Central School Corp. from 1989-1993.

Turner then worked as a study hall supervisor at NPHS from 1996-97 before becoming a substitute teacher for the district from 2003-2010.

Turner is scheduled to go to trial Monday, but it is more likely the case will be continued because of a congested court calendar. An unrelated molesting case that has priority over Turner’s is scheduled for trial on the same day in the same court.

But the delay shouldn’t be too long, Griffin said.

“You can bet that case will be concluded this year, one way or another,” he said.


Steve Harding – Charged with child molesting

A former youth minister faces a charge of child molesting as a Class A felony amid allegations he had sex with one of his teenage parishioners.

Steve Harding, 60, of New Palestine, was arrested last month and is also charged with sexual misconduct with a minor. He had been the director of youth ministries at New Palestine United Methodist Church and also worked in the church’s day care. He is no longer listed on the church’s website.

In an interview, the alleged victim told investigators Harding was a family friend and had sex with her several years ago when she was staying the night in his home. She was 13 at the time.   

The teen said Harding fondled her on another occasion while they were at the church, court records state.

Prosecutors brought charges against Harding after he failed a stipulated polygraph test.

When a polygraph test is stipulated, that means both parties agree before it is taken that its results may be used in court.

The case had been under investigation since April.

Harding pleaded not guilty at an initial hearing and was released from the Hancock County Jail on a $20,000 cash bond.

His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 14.

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