Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Juvenile status again sought

Suspect's request failed before

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The man accused of killing his girlfriend 37 years ago is trying again to move his case to juvenile court.

        Michael Wehrung asked an appeals court Tuesday to transfer his murder case from an adult court to a juvenile court, where he would face less severe penalties.

        The request comes one week after Mr. Wehrung failed to persuade Judge Patrick Dinkelacker to treat him as a juvenile defendant instead of as an adult.

        Mr. Wehrung's attorneys, Earle Maiman and James Perry, contend their client belongs in juvenile court because he was only 15 at the time of the alleged offense.

        Prosecutors say a new state law allows them to charge Mr. Wehrung as an adult because he was not “in custody or apprehended” at the time of the homicide.

        Mr. Wehrung is accused of beating to death his girlfriend, 15-year-old Patricia Rebholz, as she walked to his house after a dance in 1963.

        Her body was found the morning of Aug. 9 in a vacant lot in Greenhills.

        Mr. Wehrung, now 52, was a suspect in the case from the beginning but was not charged with a crime until this year.

        Judge Dinkelacker ruled last week that the new state law gives him jurisdiction in the case.

        But Mr. Wehrung's lawyers asked the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals to take the case from Judge Dinkelacker.

        They argued that the new state law, approved in 1996, is unconstitutional because it is retroactive. They say it makes Mr. Wehrung eligible for penalties he never would have faced as in 1963.

        In juvenile court, he could have been held in custody only until he turned 21. In adult court, he would face a possible life sentence if he is convicted.

        “Simply put, enactment of the 1996 statute affected a vast array of important substantive rights and raised the specter of substantially increased punishment,” Mr. Wehrung's lawyers wrote.

        They go on to say that Judge Dinkelacker “unquestionably erred” in his decision. Prosecutor Mike Allen said he would file a brief with the appeals court opposing the defense request.


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