Update posted at 4:25 p.m.:
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Charles “Steve” Stephenson made his first court appearance on murder and robbery charges in Dearborn County Thursday afternoon.
The 58-year-old from Walton, Kentucky is accused in the brutal murder of Leigh Jennings in her Aurora apartment on March 29. Detectives believe Stephenson beat her to death with a skillet and pepper grinder before he took money from her bedroom safe.
Dearborn Circuit Court Judge James Humphrey entered a plea of not guilty for Stephenson, who appeared in the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit and reading glasses. The murder suspect was ordered held without bond.
Humphrey said he would assign Stephenson a public defender if he or relatives could not afford their own legal counsel.
Indiana law allows for a murder committed in the process of a robbery to be punished by death. Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard said the decision to seek death has not yet been made.
“I’m not going to make a time frame on that decision. We’ll continue looking at the case. The death penalty or life without parole is a possibility. There is no deadline on when we have to file it,” Negangard said following the hearing.
Two of Leigh Jennings’ friends attended the hearing. Laura Lesko became emotional at seeing the man accused of murdering her friend.
“We lost a really good friend. We’re here in support of her. It’s hard to be in the same room as somebody who has taken a very good life away from all of us,” Lesko said, adding she believes Stephenson, if convicted, should suffer the same fate as Jennings.
Fellow friend Lala Ullrich said that Jennings would probably not like for her killer to die. Ullrich said she will wait as long as it takes to get a conviction.
“The time won’t get Leigh back, so I’m content to wait,” she said.
Stephenson’s next court appearance is a pretrial hearing scheduled for July 2 at 8:30 a.m.
Original story posted at 1:34 p.m.:
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – The man accused of a murder and robbery in Aurora was booked into jail in Indiana on Thursday.
Charles Robert “Steve” Stephenson was brought from Boone County, Kentucky and booked into the Dearborn County Law Enforcement Center just before noon.
Stephenson’s bond will be set when he makes his initial appearance in Dearborn Circuit Court at 3:30 p.m.
Boone County Commonwealth’s Attorneys decided to put tampering with evidence and drug charges against Stephenson on hold so the Dearborn County murder case could proceed. The suspect’s attorney said he wanted to address the murder and robbery charges.
Stephenson, 58, allegedly beat Leigh Jennings to death with an iron skillet and pepper grinder on March 29. Investigators believe he then took money from a safe in Jennings’ Aspen Ridge Road apartment so that he could pay a court ordered debt to his aunt.
Eagle 99.3 will have Stephenson's court appearance covered. Check back for updates.