Man’s conviction for murdering neighbor upheld

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Citing a wide array of circumstantial evidence to support a Cass County man’s murder conviction in connection with his neighbor’s death, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.

Loren H. Fry was convicted of the 2011 murder of David Schroder. Schroder was found by a passerby dead in his car with two bullet wounds to his head.

The two had a strained relationship due to the flooding on Schroder’s property, which was caused by conditions on Fry’s property. Police obtained a search warrant for Fry’s home based on statements by Schroder’s family members and those who saw Schroder and Fry drive by on the same road several times on the day of the murder. Police found a revolver that used the same bullets found in Fry’s pocket at his arrest and at the crime scene.

Fry appealed his conviction in Loren H. Fry v. State of Indiana, 09A05-1404-CR-178, raising several claims, including that his motions for a directed verdict should have been granted. But the COA found the state presented plenty of circumstantial evidence to support Fry had a motive and the time to commit the crime. In addition to the neighbors’ strained relationship, Fry frequently drove by Schroder’s property or went to the property line that divided their lands and watched Schroder and his guests. On the day of Schroder’s murder, Fry drove past Schroder’s property and stared at Schroder and a guest.

“In addition, several witnesses saw Schroder following Fry on County Road 275 immediately before Schroder’s murder. Schroder was wagging his finger at Fry. No other vehicles traveled on that road during that time period, and a police search of the area failed to reveal any signs that someone else had been present. In addition, no one took Schroder’s phone or wallet, so the evidence weighs against robbery as a motive,” Senior Judge John Sharpnack wrote.

The judges found the witnesses’ testimony supported issuing the search warrant of Fry’s house and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting a witness’s demonstration of how Fry’s revolver was loaded and unloaded. That witness answered questions from Fry’s counsel that the revolver takes a long time to load and unload, so owners often leave them partially loaded. The revolver found at Fry’s home had four bullets in it and two empty shells. The prosecution’s request for the demonstration of the loading and unloading process allowed the jury to judge the truth of the witness’s testimony, Sharpnack wrote.

There was no prosecutorial error and no error by the court in refusing to tender Fry’s jury instruction on mere presence, the appeals court held.

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