Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Trial for suspect, 52, awaits appellate ruling

Wehrung wants case in juvenile court

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A murder case that took 37 years to get to court is once again on hold.

        An appeals court has postponed the trial of Michael Wehrung, 52, until it decides whether the case should be transferred from adult court to juvenile court.

        The decision is the latest twist in a case that already has taken nearly four decades to wind through the legal system.

        Although Mr. Wehrung is supposed to go on trial Oct. 10, the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals has suspended all court proceedings until it hears arguments.

        At issue is whether Judge Patrick Dinkelacker was right last month when he ordered Mr. Wehrung to stand trial in adult court.

        Mr. Wehrung, who was 15 at the time, is accused of murdering his girlfriend as she walked to his house after a teen dance in 1963.

        Patricia Rebholz, 15, was found beaten to death on a vacant lot a half-block from Mr. Wehrung's house in Greenhills.

        Although he always was a suspect, Mr. Wehrung was not charged with the crime until this year. He faces a life sentence if he is convicted as an adult.

        But Mr. Wehrung's attorneys say their client should be tried in juvenile court because he was a teen-ager in 1963.

        Mr. Wehrung would face no significant penalty if he is con victed in juvenile court.

        “Obviously, we're now in a holding pattern,” Prosecutor Mike Allen said Monday. “But we feel very strongly in our position.”

        Prosecutors have argued that a new state law allows them to charge Mr. Wehrung as an adult because he was not “in custody or apprehended” at the time.

        But Mr. Wehrung's attorneys, who declined comment Monday, have said the new law is unconstitutional because it is retroactive and exposes Mr. Wehrung to penalties he would not have faced in 1963.


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