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Man convicted in swordfight death loses PCR appeal

January 12, 2016

A man convicted of killing his great-uncle in a 2009 swordfight that also took the life of his grandmother failed Tuesday in his pro se post-conviction relief appeal.

Christopher Rondeau was charged with murdering great-uncle Adolf Stegbauer and faced a count of Class C felony reckless homicide in connection with the death of his grandmother, Franziska Stegbauer.

Rondeau, 39, lived in a shed behind his grandmother’s Indianapolis home, which she shared with Adolf, her late husband’s brother, according to the record. Rondeau claimed he acted in self-defense, taking a saber from a collection inside the home after he said Adolf, 69, grabbed a samurai-style sword and threatened Franziska, 77. Both men had been drinking.

Franziska suffered a mortal wound as she tried to come between the two men, according to the record. Rondeau claimed he was attacked with a sword by Adolf after he twice knocked Franziska to the floor; Adolf died after sustaining at least 10 stab wounds.

A Marion Superior jury found Rondeau not guilty of the reckless homicide charge involving his grandmother’s death but convicted him of Adolf’s murder. Rondeau was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

In his post-conviction relief appeal, Rondeau sought to subpoena numerous people, including former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi, detectives and doctors who treated Rondeau, but the post-conviction court denied those requests without findings.

“Rondeau’s request for a subpoena to former Prosecutor Brizzi demonstrated no connection to any question related to ineffectiveness of counsel, and instead sought testimony concerning an isolated statement to the press. Finally, Rondeau’s requests for subpoenas of the physicians who treated his injuries at the time of his arrest pertained to matters raised or best raised at trial:  the specific nature and number of his injuries,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel.

“Because none of these matters properly pertained to Rondeau’s claimed bases for post-conviction relief, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s denial of the issuance of Rondeau’s requested subpoenas.”

The court also found the post-conviction court did not err when it permitted the state’s requests for admission of a substituted response; did not commit reversible error when it allowed the state to file late proposed findings and conclusions; and did not err in concluding Rondeau did not receive ineffective assistance of trial or appellate counsel.

The case is Christopher Rondeau v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1505-PC-427.

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