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Thomas Wenz of Shelbyville will be facing one charge of conspiracy to commit murder next month when an Oldham County Grand Jury considers his case.
Wenz, 22, originally charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, also saw another charge – unlawful transaction with a minor – dismissed. He continues to be charged with gang recruitment, possession of a controlled substance – cocaine – possession of drug paraphernalia and for engaging in organized crime.
The case of Casey Endicott, 18, of Shelbyville, who originally was charged with the same crimes as Wenz, remains at the district court level because he is scheduled for a competency hearing on Dec. 18, Oldham County Attorney John Carter said.
“It’s a mental competency hearing to determine whether he is capable of understanding the charges against him,” Carter said. He said Endicott’s attorney, public defender Jessica Schulte, had requested the hearing.
Carter said that doesn’t mean that Endicott won’t be indicted.
“The commonwealth attorney can take a direct submission to the grand jury,” he said, indicating that is what he expects that to happen.
Others arrested with Wenz and Endicott were Roger Wilson, 19, Keaton T. Lee, 19, Felix A. Myers, 20, Donnie A. Lane, 22, Brandon L. Davis, 18 and Gabrielle Beach, 22, all of La Grange.
They are all charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to commit murder to gang activity and drug possession.
The eight were arrested more than two weeks ago in La Grange and alleged to be involved with the Southside Crips gang.
At the hearing in Oldham County Circuit Court, La Grange, Police Officer Mike Jump testified that officers found a pill bottle with a white substance that tested for cocaine when a joint effort between the La Grange and Oldham County Police raided the home where the eight where staying at 104 W. Madison St. in La Grange.
Jump said the pill bottle was found in the home’s master bedroom, where officers found two others allegedly involved in the gang – Beach and Lane. The bottle also had Beach’s name on it, the officer said, and the bedroom was reportedly hers.
Attorneys for Wenz, Wilson, Davis and Myers all argued to no avail that because Beach’s name was on the bottle where the cocaine was found, their clients could not be charged with possession of cocaine.
Jump also testified officers found “two smoking devices and a marijuana grinder” in a second bedroom, where Wenz apparently was staying, and that some of the eight charged admitted to smoking marijuana before officers raided the house.
He testified that three confidential informants had told police that Wenz had said on three separate occasions that he intended to kill someone because of a drug deal that went awry.
According to Jump, Wenz had given an unidentified minor money to buy marijuana, but the minor did not deliver the drugs or the money back to Wenz.
Apparently upset that he did not get the drugs or his money back, Wenz then hatched a plan to murder the minor.
“The plan was to have one individual bound with duct tape and thrown into a trunk,” Jump testified. “The individual would then be beat and stabbed repeatedly and periodically throughout the day until they expired. Then they would have thrown them in a ditch.”
Jump said all four individuals charged with conspiracy to commit murder, Wenz, Wilson, Endicott, Keaton T. Lee, 19, of La Grange “agreed that it needed to happen” but no one individual had told any of the informants who was going to carry out the possible murder.
The officer added two of the informants were Wenz’s peers who were also facing charges. He declined to name which ones.
Jump also testified an informant told police Wenz was recruiting for the Southside Crips, which are active in Louisville, and that he had done so at least once in front of Endicott. According to the officer, Wenz said the only way into the gang was murder.
Oldham County Police Detective David Howlett, who had conducted surveillance on the home before the raid, also testified at the hearing, saying he saw up to six cars stop at the house and then quickly leave. He also saw one hand-to-hand transaction happen on the residence’s porch, he said, although the porch was not lit.
Howlett, who used to work in a violent crimes unit with Louisville Metro Police, said he had encountered members of the Southside Crips before, but was unsure if the gang had set up shop in Oldham County.
“Normally they are involved in drug offenses, violence against other gangs,” Howlett said. “There’s two ways to enter the gang in Louisville, get beat in or commit a crime.”
Shelley Brown, the attorney for Wenz, argued the criminal syndicate charges required at least the participation of five people, whereas the most charged with any one crime was four.
“At best we have four individuals charged with conspiracy,” she said.
Rob Riley, attorney for Myers, argued that his client should have his charges dismissed, because officers found him in the living room of the house, not the bedroom where drugs were found.
“My guy is one step removed from everything,” Riley said. “He’s not involved in the discussion [of murder]; he’s not in the room where things are found.”
Gary Stuart, the attorney for Wilson, argued for dismissal of the conspiracy to commit murder charge, because no overt action was taken.
“I don’t think they have made proof of probable cause to conspiracy charge,” Stuart said. “If you look at the statute, it says there have to be an overt action.”
John Cook, the attorney for Davis, argued that it’s unclear his client took part in any gang activity.
After 10 minutes of deliberations, Judge Crosby only dismissed two charges and sent the rest to the Oldham County Grand Jury, which will convene on Nov. 8.
Oldham EraReporter Kenny Colston contributed to this report.