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LEBANON, Ind. — A Boone County man has been charged with murder in connection to his wife’s death.

According to the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office, Andrew Nathan Wilhoite, was charged with one count of murder for the death of his wife Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite.

The charges stem from a domestic dispute that turned deadly on March 24.

Officials say Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite was killed by a blow to the head from a blunt object. Her body was later found in a creek near the couple’s home.

According to a probable cause affidavit, police in Boone County were called on March 25 after Nikki Wilhoite did not show up for work. The person who contacted police alerted investigators that Nikki and Andrew “were having issues” and Nikki filed for divorce on March 17.

Investigators learned Nikki’s vehicle and phone were still at the Wilhoite residence. They spoke with children in the home that told them Nikki sometimes goes to her sister’s house when she is upset, and that they were contacting other family members about where she might be.

What Andrew Wilhoite told Boone County investigators

When police first talked to Andrew Wilhoite, he said Nikki had been drunk and they had “a pretty good fight” the night before, showing them scratch marks on his neck as apparent evidence.

He said she had slept on the couch, and the morning after the altercation, he left to haul corn. When Nikki’s employer called to say she wasn’t there, Andrew says he called his father to check the property.

Andrew also stated his accountant told him that morning (March 25) that $3,000 was withdrawn from their bank account, according to court documents. Police say the money was withdrawn on March 18.

Police also spoke to Nikki’s father, who told them he received three calls from Nikki’s number the evening of March 24, but the caller had already hung up each time he tried to answer.

When police searched the home, they found blood on the bedsheets and mattress in the master bedroom and near the door and master bathroom sink.

Court documents show Andrew told police he was laying on the bed when Nikki “came after him” and scratched him.

When investigators believed the missing person case may be a possible homicide, they contacted Indiana State Police to take over because of a potential “conflict on interest.” Andrew Wilhoite’s mother, Marcia Wilhoite, is an at-large member of the Boone County Council.

ISP takes over investigation

During Andrew Wilhoite’s interview with Indiana State Police, he told them Nikki found out he was having an affair, but they had scheduled a counseling session. He believed they would reconcile, according to the affidavit. But when Nikki presented him a legal notice of separation, he refused to sign it without having his attorney review it.

He told police Nikki had been drinking heavily the night before she disappeared, and they argued for several hours before they retired for the evening. According to Andrew, Nikki appeared to still be on the couch when he left to do work on the property.

When questioned about the blood on the mattress, Andrew told investigators it came from a nosebleed he had that night.

At that point, Andrew asked for a lawyer, and then with his lawyer present, said he wished to make a statement and show where Nikki’s body was.

What Andrew Wilhoite says happened the night of Nikki’s death

Around 10 p.m. on March 24, Andrew said he and Nikki were arguing about his affair when she began hitting him in their bedroom. He told police he then threw her out the front door of their home. Andrew claims she charged him, so he grabbed a gallon-sized cement flower pot from the front porch and hit Nikki in the face with it.

She fell to the ground, and Andrew told police he “didn’t know what to do.” He decided to put Nikki in his truck and threw her in a nearby creek. He also collected pieces of the flower pot and threw them out of the truck’s window.

When asked if Nikki was still breathing, Andrew told police he didn’t know because he didn’t check. He said he didn’t remember her making any sounds or moving.

Preliminary autopsy results indicate that the cause of Nikki’s death was from blunt force trauma to the head.

“It’s a sad, sad situation all the way around,” said Pascal Fettig with Mental Health America of Boone County.  “First of all we lost a poor soul, but we have to think about the rest of the family that’s suffering.”

Pascal didn’t know the victim personally. He helps run Mental Health America of Boone County and stresses that resources are available to help those in need.

“My message is stop hurting the ones you love. There is help for you,” said Fettig.

The group shared the following message on their Facebook page:

Mental Health America of Boone County, along with the rest of our community, mourns the loss of Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite, and we are saddened over the tragic nature of her passing. We know this can bring up many difficult emotions now, and in the days and weeks to come. If you need assistance, please contact us to receive support and referral to needed mental health resources. also, if you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence, we can offer assistance. please call (765) 482-3020 x100 for help, or reach out to the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. In partnership with the Lebanon community school corporation, we are also here as a resource if you or your student need mental health resources during this difficult time. Again, please reach out. We are here.

“This is absolutely tragic because it could have been prevented,” said Kelly McBride with the Domestic Violence Network.

Court records also show Nikki filed for divorce after more than 12 years of marriage, exactly one week before she was killed. Andrew Wilhoite also revealed in a Facebook post that Nikki was battling cancer and had just wrapped up chemotherapy treatments.

Experts caution the odds of violence turning fatal increases when victims announce their intention to leave a violent relationship.

“If you are in a domestic violence relationship and you want to leave, please work with an advocate to get a safety plan in place,” said McBride.

If convicted of murder, Andrew Wilhoite could receive a 45-65 year sentence.

During an initial court hearing on March 29, a “not guilty” plea was entered. Wilhoite’s trial has been set for August.