A HIGH BAR: With deputy’s appointment as judge, prosecutor seeks to fill big shoes


HANCOCK COUNTY — Prosecutor Brent Eaton has a basket of rubber balls sitting on his desk. Every now and then, he’s been known to toss one across the hall to get the attention of his chief deputy prosecutor, Marie Castetter.

To say the attorneys working in the county prosecutor’s office are a closeknit group would be an understatement. The senior members, Eaton and Castetter, are even called the mom and dad of the group and are sometimes teased by their colleagues as “parents fighting” when there are disagreements.

While Eaton was thrilled Castetter has been appointed to take over as judge of Hancock County Superior Court 1,

the move leaves him with a major void in the office.

Not only is Eaton losing a someone he considers a close friend, but Castetter also is one of the hardest-working people in the office, he said.

Eaton is identifying candidates to become chief deputy to replace Castetter, who plans to work in her current role all the way through Dec. 31. She’ll start her new job as a county judge two days later, on Jan. 2, just across the street in the Hancock County Courthouse.

As chief deputy, Castetter is the go-to prosecutor for many cases. Eaton said her caseload is large.

Eaton will still be surrounded by other deputies: Catherine Wilson, who handles felonies; Kevin Kelly, who handles major felonies; David Thornburg, who handles felony drug cases; and Adriana Zeljkovic, who was recently hired.

Eaton may not have to look much further than his own office to find new chief deputy; attorneys in the office have expressed an interest in filling the position.

“We’re blessed to have a great team, a great group of people, and there’s a process we’ll follow, but we’ll get another good person in here,” Eaton said.

The job posting for a full-time chief deputy prosecutor has already appeared on the prosecutor’s home page. The wages and benefits — the position pays about $113,000, according to records — are paid for by the state, and the person hired will help Eaton create and administer policy for the office and will also have litigation and training responsibilities.

“We’re going to do the best we can to find the right fit for our team and our community,” Eaton said.

It’s unlikely a new chief deputy will be in place by the time Castetter leaves, Eaton said, stressing that he doesn’t want to rush the hiring process.

Wilson acknowledged the deputy prosecutors will have to make some major adjustments after Castetter leaves.

“We are losing an invaluable asset to our team,” Wilson said. “We’ll fill the position at some point, but no one will be Marie.”

Still, Wilson is excited for Castetter, who will now get to share her talents, knowledge, leadership, encouragement and dedication to the practice of law with the entire Hancock County community, Wilson said.

“Our office has been extremely fortunate to have Marie for the time period we have, and I am extremely grateful to her for being the mentor she has been,” Wilson said.

The two worked together in Marion County and at the prosecutor’s office for the past three years.

Castetter plans to finish as many of her open cases as possible, but she knows she’ll be leaving behind several and handing off a great deal of work for the current team to pick up. She will also have to hand off any special cases she’s been assigned by the state that are pending outside the county.

While she’s been in court several times this week and plans to be working on cases for the prosecutor through the end of the month, she’s also focused setting an official swearing in date, and on the transition.

“I need to get a better feel how the docket in that courtroom moves,” Castetter said.

Castetter does not plan to go into Hancock County Superior Court 1 and make any drastic changes, she said, noting Judge Terry Snow, who is retiring, has been in the courtroom for nearly two decades and has done an excellent job.

“Right now I’ll just be going in taking a good look how to manage things,” she said.

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