Wednesday, October 25, 2000

1963 killing in high court

At issue: Adult or juvenile prosecution for accused man

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Ohio Supreme Court will decide whether Michael Wehrung's murder trial belongs in adult court or juvenile court.

        The 53-year-old Greenhills man is accused of beating to death his girlfriend in 1963, when he was 15 years old.

        His attorneys asked the Supreme Court to intervene after two courts in Hamilton County refused to move the case to juvenile court.

        The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the murder trial cannot go forward until it hears arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys.

        Mr. Wehrung is accused of beating his girlfriend, Patricia Rebholz, with a fence post. Her body was found about a block from Mr. Wehrung's house.

        Mr. Wehrung's lawyers contend a trial in adult court is unfair because the possible penalty — up to life in prison — is far more severe than any sentence Mr. Wehrung would have received as a juvenile in 1963.

        In juvenile court, Mr. Wehrung would likely face no prison time if he is convicted.

        Prosecutors say a new state law allows them to charge Mr. Wehrung as an adult because he was not “arrested or apprehended” until last year.

        Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker ruled that the law allows him to keep the case in adult court. An appeals court agreed with the judge two weeks ago.

        Prosecutor Mike Allen said he was pleased that the ruling allows pretrial hearings and taking of sworn statements from witnesses to proceed because that will let him follow through with plans to take a statement from one of his key witnesses, former TV reporter Tom Schell.

        Mr. Schell, who now lives in California, spoke frequently to Mr. Wehrung in 1963. Mr. Allen and Mr. Schell have refused to say what new information he would provide.


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