Circumstantial evidence that helped convict a southern Indiana man in a quadruple killing doesn't prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, only that he was "at the wrong place at the wrong time," his attorney told the state Supreme Court during Thursday's appeal hearing.
Samuel Sallee was convicted last year by a Bartholomew County jury in the slayings of three men and a woman in Waynesville, a small community near Columbus. The 58-year-old was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a sentence that under Indiana law allowed the Columbus man to appeal his conviction directly to the state's highest court.
His attorney, Jane Ann Noblitt, told the justices there's no blood, DNA or other forensic evidence tying Sallee to the May 2013 slayings, just circumstantial evidence. That included the wallets of the three male victims that were found at a home where Sallee was staying and his visit to the home where the victims were slain to try to sell one of them a gun on the day of the killings.
"Samuel Sallee adamantly proclaims that he did not kill anyone. He also insists that he was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time," Noblitt told the justices.
But deputy state attorney general Jesse Drum argued that the circumstantial evidence against Sallee was not only considerable, but also it enabled the jury to reasonably conclude Sallee committed the killings of Waynesville residents 39-year-old Thomas Smith and 53-year-old Katheryn Burton and 41-year-old Columbus residents Aaron Cross and Shawn Burton.
He cited the victims' wallets and the visit to the home, as well as jewelry and crime scene shell casings consistent with others found in an adjacent county where Sallee had hunted squirrels.
Drum also said a Marion County Jail inmate who testified at Sallee's trial that he had confessed to the killings represented direct evidence, not circumstantial. He said Sallee also divulged details of the killings that hadn't been released to the inmate.
"Based on that circumstantial evidence I think the only reasonable conclusion was that Sallee was the killer," Drum told the justices, adding that the inmate's testimony tied "all that circumstantial evidence together."
Chief Justice Loretta Rush did not indicate when the justices might rule on Sallee's appeal.