A Southern Indiana man convicted of killing two people will spend the rest of his life behind bars, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Monday, finding a trial court did not impermissibly rely on aggravating circumstances outside those listed by statute in imposing a sentence of life without parole.
Justices affirmed the sentence imposed on Kevin Schuler Monday in Kevin Andrew Schuler v. State of Indiana, 31S00-1703-LW-134. The Indiana Supreme Court last year affirmed Schuler’s sentence but remanded to the Harrison Superior Court for a more specific sentencing statement.
Schuler pleaded guilty to the murder of Asenath Arnold and to felony murder for the death of Gary Henderson at the hands of his accomplice Austin Scott. Arnold, a mostly bedridden 57-year-old woman, was found dead in her home in 2013, along with Henderson, who slept in a separate room upstairs. The two were slain in their home during a burglary carried out by Scott and Schuler. Schuler admitted to the bludgeoning death of Arnold and pleaded guilty to the felony murder of Henderson.
Schuler accepted a plea calling for LWOP in exchange for the state dropping its request for the death penalty. In its revised order, the trial court sentenced him to LWOP for one murder plus 65 years in prison for the other, and justices affirmed Monday.
“The trial court did not find a non-statutory aggravator by noting Schuler’s ‘participation in this crime was not minor,’” the Supreme Court held in a per curiam decision. “That language could explain either how the court weighed the intentional-killing aggravator or why the court was not finding as a mitigating circumstance that ‘[t]he defendant was an accomplice in a murder committed by another person, and the defendant’s participation was relatively minor,’ I.C. § 35-50-29(c)(4); accord Wisehart v. State, 693 N.E.2d 23, 60 n.61 (Ind. 1998).”
“… Finally, there is no error in the revised order’s statement that ‘two innocent victims were killed, and there is no excuse or justification for those killings,” the justices concluded. “The references to ‘innocence’ and lack of ‘excuse or justification’ simply underscore that the court found no mitigating circumstance other than Schuler’s lack of a significant criminal history.”