KENTON — Hardin County Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Barrett made official what most participants in the trial of Gerrick Sheldon had seen coming. Near the end of testimony in the fourth day of trial testimony Thursday, Barrett told jurors that “there is no way we’re going to get this case settled this week.”
Testimony will resume today.
Prosecutors painstakingly questioned officers from the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office Thursday as the Harrod man’s trial continued. Sheldon is charged with complicity to attempted aggravated murder and other charges related to his alleged attempt to get his 16-year-old son, Garrett, to burn down the home of Danielle Sheldon, his estranged wife, in the early morning hours of Aug. 13.
With Hardin County Detective Michael Conley on the stand for most of the day, jurors watched for the second time a videotaped interview of Garrett Sheldon conducted by Conley at the sheriff’s office on the morning of Aug. 14. During that interview the teenager recounted his version of events of the evening, stating that his father drove him to the home of Danielle Sheldon, 13912 County Road 60, Dunkirk, around 2 a.m. with explicit directions on how to set her house ablaze.
The boy said he told his father he would carry out the act, but in reality had no intention of doing so. Instead, he made arrangements through his brother to let Danielle Sheldon know he would be knocking on the back door of her residence that morning and for her to alert law enforcement authorities, he told the detective.
Jurors also viewed a taped interview Conley conducted with Tony Sheldon at the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office around 5 a.m. Aug. 14. During that interview, Sheldon expressed to Conley his desire to re-unite with his estranged wife — contrasting what had previously been described as a toxic relationship between the two.
“I’d give anything for Danielle to come back. If she told me she’d give me another chance, I’d go back. I know she thinks it’s me, but it’s not me. I’m not doing this,” Sheldon told the detective.
He also said his sons “have animosity” toward their stepmother, adding that “everyone knows Garrett hates Danielle.”
But Tony Sheldon during the interview denied any involvement in a plan to burn down his estranged wife’s house. He also denied a claim made by Garrett that he had filled a gallon jug with gasoline in preparation for the arson attempt. But when asked by Conley if he would submit to allowing his hands to be swabbed for gas, Sheldon refused.
Prosecuting Attorney Bradford Bailey alerted jurors to what he claimed were numerous discrepancies or inaccuracies in Sheldon’s statements, and Conley at one point during the interrogation said, “Tony, you’ll all over the place right now.”
When Conley flatly stated his belief that Sheldon had driven his son to the home of Danielle Sheldon that evening, the defendant said, “I’m not saying any more; I want a lawyer.”
Terry Sneary, a detective and digital forensic examiner for the sheriff’s office, was the day’s first witness. He recounted his efforts in extracting data — text and email messages — from the cell phones of Tony, Garrett and Danielle Sheldon. He was also asked to for his interpretation of an image captured on a surveillance camera at the home of Danielle Sheldon.
A Hardin County deputy testified earlier in the trial that at approximately 2:49 a.m. Aug. 13, a vehicle drove past Danielle Sheldon’s home and that Tony Sheldon was stopped a minute later near that residence while driving a PT Cruiser. Defense attorneys, however, pointed out that a PT Cruiser’s taillights differ greatly from those seen on video, and Sneary agreed.