Hocking County Common Pleas Judge John T. Wallace heard arguments Friday for and against dropping multiple serious felony charges against a 19-year-old Laurelville woman, who’s accused of having helped her father cover up the murder of a South Bloomingville area man last year.
The defense argued that defendant Melody Sue Dixon’s right to a speedy trial as defined in Ohio law has been violated, since she has been held in jail since her arrest in July of last year.
A special prosecutor from the Ohio attorney general’s office responded that the clock on Dixon’s speedy trial deadline has been stopped and restarted repeatedly since her arrest, due in some cases to developments in the case such as defense discovery requests, but mostly due to delays mandated by actions of the court and other government bodies, closing down jury trials due to COVID-19 precautions.
Special prosecutor Anthony Pierson told Judge Wallace that defense attorney Timothy P. Gleeson’s motion to dismiss the case against Dixon fails to take these necessary delays into account in calculating Dixon’s speedy trial deadline.
“Essentially he’s ignoring that COVID existed,” Pierson maintained.
The judge made no ruling on Gleeson’s motion to dismiss the case, but set a date of March 1 for the two sides in the case to submit briefs on points of law.
Dixon is charged with seven counts of evidence tampering; one count of gross abuse of a corpse; two counts of obstructing justice; and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. She is alleged to have helped her father, 41-year-old Michael T. Dixon, to try to conceal from authorities his murder of James T. Whitaker, assistance that allegedly including helping to dispose of Whitaker’s body.
Michael Dixon is facing his own list of felony charges, including two murder counts.
One issue that has been raised by Gleeson is the fact that Melody Sue Dixon was initially indicted on just two counts of obstructing justice, one a third-degree and the other a fifth-degree felony. That case was dismissed by the state last October, and Dixon was indicted again, this time on the 11 counts listed above.
Gleeson maintains that the speedy trial clock should not have been set back to zero with the second indictment, because the second indictment is based on essentially the same alleged facts as the first. He also claims that when the Hocking County prosecutor’s office successfully argued for a $500,000 bond, it did so based partly on the notion that more serious charges against Dixon based on the same initial facts would be forthcoming. Therefore, he suggested, authorities had intended from the beginning to charge Dixon with the more serious crimes in the second indictment – more reason to calculate speedy trial time as elapsed from her initial arrest, and not restart the clock with the second indictment.
A Hocking County sheriff’s investigator, however, testified that the investigation of Whitaker’s death never reached a final conclusion.
“Right now I believe it’s still not complete,” said Lt. Dustin Robison. “We’re still seeking the truth.”
Wallace asked the attorneys in the case, when they prepare their written submissions, to include timelines of when they each think the speedy clock was running, and when it was stopped, or “tolled.”
“Give me a count on this, including tolling events,” he requested.
Jim Phillips is the
Editor for The Logan Daily News