Man convicted in Behrman case wants new trial

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MORGAN COUNTY – The man convicted in the May 2000 disappearance and murder of Indiana University coed Jill Behrman argued in a Morgan County court Tuesday that his original trial attorney did not put up a vigorous defense during his murder trial.

John Myers is serving 65 years in prison for the killing of Behrman, who disappeared while on a Monroe County bike ride.

He was represented by attorney Patrick Baker at trial.

In 2011, Baker’s law license was suspended for six months for misconduct connected to the case.

During a hearing in front of Judge G. Thomas Gray, Myers’ appeal attorneys questioned retired detective Marty Deckard and Gary Dunn about their original investigation.

Dunn said detectives took what turned out to be a false confession from Wendy Owings that she was with friends who ran down Behrman along the side of a Bloomington road and disposed of her body in Salt Creek.

That creek was later drained and searched and potential evidence recovered.

Owings said Behrman was stabbed to death.

“From our perspective, none of what they’re saying matches what we now know to be true about Jill’s death,” said Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega. “Nobody’s really yet talked to March 9, 2003, when Jill’s remains were found in Morgan County.”

An autopsy determined Behrman died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Detectives found Behrman’s bike in early June 2000 a few days after her disappearance along Maple Grove Road in Monroe County, not far from the home of John Myers.

Dunn said Myers’ name first surfaced that summer in a phone call from a relative in Tennessee who reported that “You need to look at John Myers. He’s acting strange.”

Dunn said Myers was questioned, but was not considered a serious suspect.

“There was a distinct lack of evidence at the time.”

As the Owings claims were discredited, Myers became a suspect again.

Myers attorneys will argue that Baker never pursued alternative suspects or theories.

“Well, that’s Judge Gray’s call obviously,” said Sonnega, “but, the Indiana  Court of Appeals that wrote that opinion made a specific finding that nothing in their opinion found any deficit in his performance at trial, so, at least in terms of the court that heard all of that, their initial assessment was they found nothing that in any way indicates prejudice at trial.”

Sonnega said he expects Baker to testify Thursday.

The hearing is expected to last into next week.

If Gray finds Myers’ right to a fair trial was compromised by his attorney, Myers can then file an appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals.