Families of Michael J. Sanders and Skyler Naugle both gathered in the Washington Circuit Court today to hear an initial plea on charges of murder.
Sanders did not answer to charges of killing Skyer Naugle with a shotgun. He was silent the majority of the time after answering questions about his date of birth, education and residence.
He told Circuit Judge Larry Medlock that he could not afford an attorney and Medlock said he would appoint a public defender. At that time, Medlock also entered a not-guilty plea for Sanders.
Medlock set the pre-trial conference for August 30 at 9a with the trial tentatively set for December 4 at 8:30a.
Medlock said the punishment for murder was between 45 and 65 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Tara Hunt from the Washington County Prosecutor’s Office asked the judge for no bail for Sanders, indicating that in Indiana there are two crimes where the withholding of bail can be made – murder and treason.
Medlock said he would hear evidence for this and Indiana State Police Detective Matt Busick was sworn in and began answering questions from Hunt.
Hunt asked a series of questions that Busick responded to, including the initial search for a missing person for Skyler Naugle, leading through Naugle’s wife, Ashley Perry, calling around and asking friends if they had heard anything from her husband.
Perry had contacted Sanders and he told her that he picked Naugle up and took him to his address near Little York so he could meet a woman from New Albany.
Hunt outlined with Busick that Sanders told three different stories – one to Perry, one to Washington County Deputy Ryan Larrimore and a different one to Busick.
“When we interviewed Sanders, he was nervous and walking around,” said Busick. A search warrant was sought and ISP troopers and Washington County Sheriff’s Department deputies aided in the search of the property.
Busick said about 50-100 feet behind the house in the woods, they found a body.
He said the waist and legs were tied with a rope and the body was in a shallow grave with about 18 inches of dirt on top, located in a shallow ravine.
When the autopsy was completed on Wednesday, Busick said the preliminary cause of death was ruled murder from a gunshot wound in the head.
Although there has been no official confirmation of the body’s identity, Busick said in court the body was identified as Naugle’s due to the tattoos present on his chest, arm and ankle, which matched pictures of Naugle found online.
Also, Busick said police found plastic shotgun wadding around where the head was positioned in the body bag, which matched similar plastic shotgun wadding near a burn barrel behind the house in Little York.
Investigators also were able to visually see a drag trail from behind the house to the gravesite in the woods. Busick also said using a chemical called Luminol, police were able to see a blood trail reflecting the same path into the woods.
Busick detailed how the property owner, Richard Morgan (Sanders’s step-father) came to the residence after hearing that Sanders had been seen carrying and shooting his .20 gauge sawed off shotgun. Morgan entered the home, took the shotgun apart, wrapped it in a jacket and hid it in the basement. He told police what he did and police later found the shotgun where Morgan had left it.
Busick said police also recovered a spade and bucket, which were both covered in dirt similar to the dirt where the body was found.
Busick then detailed how on July 26th, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a stolen car from near the residence of Sanders and that he had stolen the vehicle. A report was broadcast to other agencies and police gathered near Little York to begin their search for Sanders and the vehicle.
The vehicle, a Gold 2007 Ford Focus, was stopped in Austin by the Austin City Police.
Busick said he arrived at the scene and detained Sanders in his vehicle, and transported him to the Washington County Detention Center.
Hunt said she was requesting Judge Medlock to hold Sanders with no bail.
“Currently we don’t have a motive,” said Hunt. “But we believe if he was released on bail, he might put others in danger.”
She also asked Judge Medlock to consider the fact Sanders had been out of jail on probation from a sexual battery charge earlier in the year.
Sanders plead guilty to Sexual Battery, a Level 6 Felony on January 25 of this year. He was sentenced to 735 days, with 652 days suspended – serving 652 days of probation and to pay all court cost and fees
Judge Medlock agreed to hold Sanders without bail, but noted that could change with the addition of a public defender in the case. He said this matter might need to be readdressed in the future.