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Five men charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to commit murder to gang activity and drug possession are having their cases sent to a grand jury.
The five are part of a group of eight individuals arrested more than two weeks ago in La Grange and alleged to be involved with the Southside Crips gang.
Four individuals had their cases referred to a grand jury for possible indictment after a preliminary hearing on Wednesday. Those four are Thomas L. Wenz, 22, of Shelbyville and Roger D. Wilson, 19, Brandon L. Davis, 18, and Felix A. Myers, 20, all of La Grange.
A fifth, Donnie A. Lane, 22, of La Grange, waived his preliminary hearing and had his case sent to a grand jury. He’s charged with one count of engaging in organized crime, one count of possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, one count of unlawful transaction with a minor and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
The other four had a preliminary hearing in their cases before Judge Jerry Crosby on Wednesday, where their individual attorneys argued against forwarding their charges onto a grand jury for further action.
After more than 90 minutes of testimony, Judge Crosby did not grant full dismissal on the charges for the four candidates, saying evidence presented by two police officers involved in the arrest of the eight individuals showed enough probable cause on a majority on the charges.
Wenz and Wilson, originally charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, saw their charges reduced to one charge with the other charge dismissed. But a charge of gang recruitment for Wenz and charges of possession of a controlled substance – cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia and for engaging in organized crime for both Wenz and Wilson were forwarded to a grand jury.
Charges of engaging in organized crime, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia on Myers and Davis were also forwarded to a grand jury by Judge Crosby.
Charges of unlawful transaction with a minor were dropped for all four men.
At the hearing, La Grange Police Officer Mike Jump testified that officers found a pill bottle with a white substance that tested for cocaine when a joint effort between the La Grange and Oldham County Police raided the home where the eight where staying at 104 W. Madison St. in La Grange.
Jump said the pill bottle was found in the home’s master bedroom, where officers found two others allegedly involved in the gang – Gabrielle Beach and Donnie Lane. The bottle also had Beach’s name on it, the officer said, and the bedroom was reportedly hers.
Attorneys for Wenz, Wilson, Davis and Myers all argued that because Beach’s name was on the bottle where the cocaine was found, their clients could not be charged with possession of cocaine. But those arguments didn’t sway Judge Crosby.
Jump also testified officers found “two smoking devices and a marijuana grinder” in a second bedroom where Wenz was apparently staying and that some of the eight charged admitted to smoking marijuana before officers raided the house.
The officer was grilled by four separate attorneys about the arrest of the eight alleged gang members for more than an hour. He testified that three confidential informants had told police that Wenz had said on three separate occasions that he intended to kill someone over a drug deal that went awry.
According to Jump, Wenz had given an unidentified minor money to buy marijuana, but the minor did not deliver the drugs or the money back to Wenz. Apparently upset that he did not get the drugs or his money back, Wenz then hatched a plan to murder the minor.
“The plan was to have one individual bound with duct tape and thrown into a trunk,” Jump testified. “The individual would then be beat and stabbed repeatedly and periodically throughout the day until they expired. Then they would have thrown them in a ditch.”
Jump said all four individuals charged with conspiracy to commit murder, Wenz, Wilson and Casey Endicott, 18, of Shelbyville and Keaton T. Lee, 19, of La Grange “agreed that it needed to happen” but no one individual had told any of the informants who was going to carry out the possible murder.
The officer added two of the informants were Wenz’s peers who were also facing charges. He did not name which ones.
Jump also testified an informant told police Wenz was recruiting for the Southside Crips, which are active in Louisville, and he had done so at least once in front of Endicott. According to him, Wenz said the only way into the gang was murder.
Oldham County Police Detective David Howlett also testified at the hearing, due to his surveillance of the home prior to the raid. During his testimony, Howlett said he witnessed up to six cars stop at the house and quickly leave. He also saw one hand-to-hand transaction happen on the residence’s porch, he said, although the porch was not lit.
Howlett, who used to work in a violent crimes unit with Louisville Metro Police, said he had encountered members of the Southside Crips before, but was unsure if the gang was in Oldham County.
“Normally they are involved in drug offenses, violence against other gangs,” Howlett said. “There’s two ways to enter the gang in Louisville: get beat in or commit a crime.”
Rob Riley, the attorney for Myers, tried to make a case that his client should have his charges dismissed, since officers found him in the living room of the house, not the bedrooms where drugs were found.
“My guy is one step removed from everything,” Riley said. “He’s not involved in the discussion (of murder), he’s not in the room where things are found.”
Gary Stuart, the attorney for Wilson, tried to argue for dismissal of the conspiracy to commit murder charge, since no overt action was taken.
“I don’t think they have made proof of probable cause to conspiracy charge,” Stuart said. “If you look at the statue, it says there has to be an overt action.”
John Cook, the attorney for Davis, argued that it’s unclear his client took part in any gang activity.
Shelly Brown, the attorney for Wenz, argued the criminal syndicate charges required at least the participation of five people, whereas the most charged with any one crime was four.
“At best we have four individuals charged with conspiracy,” she said.
After deliberations, Judge Crosby only dismissed two charges and sent the rest to a grand jury. The next Oldham County grand jury meets Nov. 8.
For the other three charged, their cases are still hanging in District Court. Endicott is awaiting a competency hearing on his charges, which include conspiracy to commit murder as well as the gang and drug charges.
Endicott’s attorney, Jessica Schulety, asked for the hearing on Dec. 18 at 1 p.m., arguing Endicott had previously been ruled incompetent in a previous case more than a year ago. Judge Crosby agreed to the hearing, although County Attorney John Carter said Endicott could be indicted by then.
Both Gabrielle Beach and Keaton Lee also had hearings, although they are waiting to be assigned different public defenders on their charges. Beach is charged with the organized crime and drug offenses, while Lee is additionally charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Their next hearings are on Nov. 6.
In their hearings, Beach and Lane requested the ability to amend their bonds to allow interaction with each other, because they are engaged. The request was granted.
Lee, Wenz and Wilson remain in jail as of their hearings, although Wenz and Wilson had their bonds lowered and the possibility of house arrest in place. The other five had already bailed out of Oldham County Jail as of the hearing.
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