Murder trial slated to begin


GREENFIELD — Perhaps the third time will be the charm.

An Indianapolis woman accused of orchestrating the murder of her romantic rival returns to court Monday, and prosecutorswill once again attempt to put her behind bars permanently after curveballs altered two attempts at proceedings.

Amanda Gonzales, 28, was charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder amid allegations she helped plan the slaying of 23-year-old Katrina Miller, who was found shot in a Hancock County cornfield inJuly 2014.

Gonzales has been called to Hancock County Superior Court 1 for trial twice since being arrested.

The first court date, set in late March, was postponed after 75 potential jurors failed to show up after not having received notices summoning them to court. The trial was rescheduled for mid April.

In April, moments after a jury was selected to weigh the evidence, Gonzales accepted an agreement from Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton in which she agreed to plead guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder; the murder charges she faced were dropped.

But when Gonzales returned a month later for sentencing, she told Hancock County Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow she had changed her mind. She withdrew her guilty plea, and Eaton refiled the murder charge in response.

Gonzales is one of three people charged in Miller’s death: accused shooter Joe Meyers was convicted of murder and kidnapping at trial late last year and is serving a 75-year sentence in an Indiana Department of Correction facility; Ronnie Westbrook, Gonzales’ former boyfriend, was sentenced to serve six years in prison after he pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal, a Level 5 felony.

During Meyers’ trial, Westbrook testified that Gonzales became angry when she caught Westbrook and Miller in a motel room together.

Prosecutors suggested her jealousy drove her to plan Miller’s shooting.

Surveillance footage presented during Meyers’ trial showed the three suspects and Miller getting into Meyers’ sport utility vehicle the morning Miller is believed to have been shot.

Westbrook, who was out on parole, was wearing a Department of Correction-issued ankle bracelet that tracked his movements at the time. GPS data from the device suggests Westbrook was dropped off shortly before the shooting, then picked up as his co-defendants returned from the scene, court documents state.

Westbrook told jurors Gonzales planned to shoot Miller. But at the last minute, Gonzales decided she couldn’t go follow through with the plan, and she handed the gun to Meyers, who pulled the trigger, Westbrook said.

But Gonzales’ attorney, Bob Beymer of Portland, says Westbrook has changed his story and plans to recant the statements he made against his former girlfriend.

Beymer told the court Westbrook now says Meyers threatened to kill Gonzales if she did not go along with the plan. Westbrook said he and Gonzales left the scene together before Miller was killed, Beymer said.

Prosecutors estimate the proceedings could last at least two weeks. Jury selection is expected to take most of the day Monday, and Eaton said he expects the state would rest its case by Friday.

Prosecutors have assembled a list of 20 witnesses, including Westbrook, Eaton said.

If convicted of all charges, Gonzales could be sentenced to serve 146 years in prison.