Former Cloverdale resident Christopher Stevens will be back in court facing a possible death penalty following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to deny his appeal.
Stevens' 1994 murder and child molestation convictions stand. He will go before a jury in Lafayette to determine whether or not he will receive the death penalty.
No court date has been set yet.
Tim Bookwalter, Putnam County prosecutor said, "He will be in front of Judge Thomas Bush. Judge George Heid, who originally tried the case, is now deceased."
Bookwalter has already discussed the retrial with Todd and Sandy Snider, the parents of Zachary Snider, the 10-year-old boy Stevens was convicted of molesting and killing on July 15, 1993.
Information on the Web site www.clarkprosecutor.org said Stevens was convicted of child molestation in Marion County in Feb. 1993 and received a four-year sentence with three yeas suspended and probated. His probation was transferred to Cloverdale, where he returned to live with his father.
Apparently none of his neighbors knew of his past conviction. Zachary Snider was often seen in the company of the 20-year-old Stevens, who often videotaped Snider's little league games, the site said.
At one point, Todd Snider, Zachary's father, warned Stevens to stay away from his son after he found out Stevens had taken Zachary fishing. A month later, Zachary turned up missing. He was last seen at a friend's home. Zachary told his friend he was going to Stevens' home, the site said.
As a search for Zachary was launched, Stevens' brother reported to police that Stevens had confessed to him that he murdered Zachary. He then directed police to a remote location near a bridge where Zachary and his bicycle were found. Stevens was arrested and gave a full confession, the site said.
On March 14, 1995 Stevens was sentenced to death with the aggravating circumstances being that the child he molested was less than 12 years old and the fact he was on probation.
The mitigating circumstances were that he gave a confession to police, was only 20 years old at the time of the murder, that his parents were divorced when he was a child, his father had been jailed for molesting his stepsister, mother jailed for drug dealing, he received mental health treatment for depression in 1992, and "was of average intelligence with good insight but was manipulative, shallow and had poor impulse control," the site said.
Stevens' trial drew national attention and led to "Zachary's Law," which requires all convicted sex offenders to register with a searchable database.
The original trial was moved to Tippecanoe County due to the amount of exposure the case received in Putnam County. The assertion was that Stevens would not have received a fair trial, so a change of venue was pursued.
The Indiana Supreme Court first heard the appeal on Dec. 31, 1997 but affirmed the ruling. It was a federal appeals court that decided Stevens did not have adequate representation from his court-appointed lawyers.
In December, Bookwalter re-filed a request for the death penalty.
At that time, he said, "I have, over the last three months, reassembled the file and reviewed the record and the evidence. I have also discussed the case with the prosecutors who tried the case for the first time, retired Det. Dick Rice of the Indiana State Police, who was the detective who handled the case, and most importantly, Todd and Sandy Snider, Zachary's parents. After my review of the evidence, and input from these persons, I have decided to re-file the request for the death penalty."
"It's important to understand that the convictions for murder and child molesting still stand," Bookwalter continued. "The only issue on re-trial is whether Mr. Stevens receives the death penalty, life in prison without parole, or a definite sentence in terms of years. Mr. Stevens has the right to a jury trial to determine this."
Rice, who agreed to come out of retirement to help prepare the case, along with Justin Long, a deputy prosecutor who worked evenings and weekends to assemble the 13-year-old matter, assisted the prosecutor.
Bookwalter said it would probably be around a year before the trial actually begins. With the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to deny the appeal, the case has returned to the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office and the lap of Lafayette Superior Court Judge Bush.