Fleming Murder Trial Day 2 Wed Feb 20


Fleming Murder Trial – Day 2


February 20, 2019


By Terry Bailey



After spending the first day of the Chuckie Fleming murder trial on the jury education/selection process, the prosecution began its presentation of evidence to prove the guilt of the defendant.


Both sides offered opening statements. According to presiding judge Kim Cudney, the opening statement is general in nature where issues to be presented are explained to the jury.


Mark Noah, Mitchell County attorney, said the case was one of greed and death. Noah said that on November 9, 2001 Justin Paul purchased a shotgun from Wayne’s Sporting Goods in Beloit. Paul then gave the shotgun to Chuckie Fleming in lieu wages owed to Fleming as an employee.


Noah said that Carol Fleming’s husband, Charles Fleming, died on June 3, 2000 and his estate was left to Carol. The net worth of the estate was $863,000.


Carol Fleming was the owner of Joint Effort, a beauty salon, explained Noah. Carol was well known and she enjoyed going out. At the time of her death, Richard (Rick) Harris was her boyfriend.


In 2003 Carol’s boys lived at home with her and the residence was known as a “party house.”


There was at least one incident of Chuckie displaying anger at his mother’s spending habits and had complained that his mother would spend all the money before he would inherit his share.


On August 15, 2003 Rick Harris and his son David came to town. Carol and Rick went to the Eagles Club and David stayed at Joint Effort. Rick and Carol left the Eagles between 12:15 and 12:30 am on August 16th. They returned to Joint Effort and David, as the driver, drove them to Carol’s residence at 622 East 4th Street in Beloit.


David Harris then went to the living room, sat on the couch, and turned on the TV. David said that at some point he woke up and saw Chuckie talking on the phone in the kitchen.


Around 1:30 Carol and Rick went to bed. Around 2:45 some of the regular folks who came by the Fleming home arrived and found the doors locked which was quite unusual. They noted Chuckie’s pickup in the driveway.


According to Noah, around 3:19 am, Rick Harris woke up and noticed a warm mist. He smelled gunpowder and the lights were on. He looked around and saw Carol dead in the bed and called 911. Records indicate the call was made at 3:19 am on August 16th.


Eric Hilt, a deputy for the Mitchell County Sheriff’s department, was the first to arrive on the scene. He entered the unlocked front door and saw Rick Harris in his underwear with a handful of knives. Harris said, “She’s in here” indicating the bedroom. Hilt entered the bedroom and saw Carol on the bed obviously dead from a gunshot wound to the head.


Shortly after, Chad Fleming, one of Carol’s sons, came into the house. He said he had seen Chuckie taking a shotgun out of his pickup and then putting it in the garage. Shotgun shells were found outside the house near the dog kennel fence.


Noah summed up his opening comments by saying, “The State believes Chuckie is guilty of his mother’s murder. The State believes that Chuckie was afraid his mother would spend all the money left by his father and he had to kill her to get his inheritance. To make sure he got his share of his dad’s estate,” said Noah, “Chuckie put the shotgun to Carol’s temple while she was sleeping and pulled the trigger.”


Then Julie Eppenbeck, defense attorney for Chuckie Fleming, presented her opening comments by explaining that there were three Charles Flemings. The senior Charles was involved in the founding of Sunflower Manufacturing years ago. One of his sons was Charles Fleming who was Carol’s husband and Chuckie’s father. The youngest Charles is Charles Ray “Chuckie” Fleming.


Effenbeck told the jury that when local people heard of Chuckie’s arrest last summer that they believed there must have been some type of new evidence to prompt the arrest. She said that was not true and it is still the same case that it was years ago. “All the evidence in this case is circumstantial,” said Effenbeck. “There is no direct evidence in this case. There definitely is not enough circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of Chuckie or anyone else,” added Eppenbeck.


Eppenbeck said that Carol and Rick went home, cooked some breakfast and went to bed. Rick said he was awakened by feeling mist but not by the blast of a shotgun. Rick then called 911 at 3:19 am and said “there has been a terrible accident.”


At the time of Carol’ death, according to Eppenbeck, three of Carol’s sons were alive and living with her. Her son Brad was deceased at the time of Carol’s death. Eppenbeck pointed out that Chuckie was not the only son who would benefit from Carol’s death and that each son would inherit an equal share. The sons would benefit equally from her death.


Eppenbeck then posed these questions:


Why did Rick Harris not wake up when a shotgun was discharged in the bedroom?


Chuckie was seen in downtown Beloit at 3:00 am.


Would it help Chad to say he saw Chuckie with the shotgun?


Why was there no blood spatter on Rick Harris? Why was there not blood spatter on anyone?


When the shotgun was discovered by three police officers, why did none of them smell gunpowder or the odor of gun cleaning solvent?


Eppenbeck summed up her opening comments, “The defense does not have to prove the innocence of Chuckie. He is innocent until proven guilty. The State must prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”


At this point Mark Noah called his first witness, Eric Hilt. Hilt was the first officer to arrive at the scene at 3:25 am. Hilt recounted the sequence of events. He knocked on the front door, found it open and entered the house and observed Rick Harris with a handful of kitchen knives. Harris said he did not know what had happened because he was asleep.


Hilt entered the bedroom and observed Carol on the bed, obviously dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Hilt recounted the arrival of other officers and the securing of the crime scene.


Effenbeck cross examined Hilt. She reviewed Hilt’s comments with Harris and asked about his statement of “I do not know what happened. I was asleep.” Hilt confirmed that to be true. Hilt also said that Harris appeared to be keeping his distance with no blood on him or his clothes. Hilt told Effenbeck that he remembered Chad being dressed in street clothes with no shirt.


The next witness called by Noah was Dr. Christene Marozas. Marozas was the coroner on duty on August 16, 2003. She was called to the Fleming residence at 3:00 pm August 16th. According to Marozas the coroner’s duty is to determine if a death has occurred and not the cause of death.


The next witness was Wayne Ronnebaum. Ronnebaum, owner of Wayne’s Sporting Goods, confirmed by reviewing records that on November 9, 2001 he sold a Remington 870 magnum express shotgun to Justin Paul. The serial number on the sales receipt matched the serial number on the shotgun found the Fleming residence on August 16, 2003.


Justin Paul was the next witness. Paul related that he did buy a Remington 870 shotgun on November 9, 2001. He gave the gun to Chuckie Fleming in lieu of wages owed. Fleming was an employee of Paul in his contracting business. Paul he gave the gun to Chuckie who took it home.


Effenbeck reviewed the relationship between Paul and Chuckie Fleming. She also confirmed that on the paperwork for the gun purchase that Paul indicated that he was a citizen of the United States when he was not.


Tony Perez, Mitchell County Sheriff, then recounted the sequence of events for the shotgun retrieved at the crime scene. Perez had the shotgun with him in an evidence box. He was asked to open it and he did. Perez also had shotgun shells retrieved from the crime scene. Both the shotgun and the shells were entered into evidence.


Doug Daugherty, Mitchell County sheriff at the time, told about the search for evidence inside and outside of the house. He recounted finding the shotgun shells near the dog kennel fence. Daugherty told of finding the shotgun in a pickup in a detached garage on the property around 10:00 am. He, Frank Ghent and Bill Pettijohn could not detect the weapon recently being fired.


Effenbeck reviewed the sequence of events with Daugherty. Daugherty said he was at the crime scene all day and told about the search for evidence on the property. When asked if Rick Harris was cooperative Daugherty said Harris retained an attorney right away and “lawyered up.”


Bill Halverson, at the time a KBI agent, told of being called to Beloit to assist in the case. Halverson recounted taking pictures inside and outside the house to document the crime scene. Noah showed him numerous pictures and he verified their accuracy.


Effenbeck reviewed his work at the crime scene. She asked if he had taken pictures of the bathroom and he said had not. They determined that the house needed housekeeping.


Lisa Burdett, a KBI forensic specialist, came to Beloit and conducted a forensic investigation on the crime scene. She examined material on the sheets from the bed and collected DNA evidence.


Effenbeck reviewed where blood spatter was found and where it was not found.


Frank Ghent was the Chief of Police in Beloit at the time. He told of helping retrieve and bag evidence at the crime scene. He also told of finding the shotgun shells and the shotgun.


The last witness of the day was Bill Pettijohn a KBI Senior Special Agent stationed in Beloit at the time of the murder. He told that when he arrived on the crime scene after a call from Sheriff Daugherty he observed Chad and Chuckie Fleming and Rick and David Harris standing outside of the house. Pettijohn told of finding the shotgun in the pickup. He opened the breech of the gun and did not smell any gun power or cleaning solvent.


Effenbeck asked if all the officers smelled the gun and why. Pettijohn said it was customary to open the breech and smell to detect the odor of gunpowder or cleaning solvent.


At 4:30 Judge Cudney recessed the session until 9:00 am Thursday morning.


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