LIMA — The marital status of the wife of Melvin Boothe IV was a hotly-debated topic during a pre-trial hearing held Thursday in the Lima man’s murder case.
Boothe, 29, is charged with aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse and possessing criminal tools in the death of 25-year-old McKenzie Butler, whose body was found last summer in Lima’s Martin Luther King Park.
A trial date has not yet been set in the case.
Boothe’s attorney, Zach Maisch, and Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Kyle Thines each argued their respective opinions on the legal implications of “marital privilege” and “marital competency” before Judge Terri Kohlrieser on Thursday morning.
The definitions come into play as they pertain to Monica Jackson, Boothe’s wife, who placed a 911 call to police and later provided to the Lima Police Department a recording during which Boothe reportedly admitted to his role in Butler’s death.
Maisch said Jackson cannot legally be compelled to testify at Boothe’s trial because of her marital relationship with the defendant, and the defense attorney also maintained that any conversations between Jackson and Boothe are likewise inadmissible at trial.
“The real issue is marital privilege, which covers confidential conversations between a husband and wife,” Maisch said. “The state contends they (Boothe and Jackson) were estranged and not living in coverture at the time of the incident, but we believe case law shows that none of their conversations can come in” as testimony.
Thines said that during Boothe’s three-hour interview with police he “refers frequently to Jackson as his ex-wife and says he is not interested in the two of them getting back together. Maybe Miss Jackson thought they were getting back together, but that’s clearly not what the defendant thought.”
The prosecutor said Jackson was “scared for her life” because Boothe had confessed a murder to her and then caught her recording the conversation.
“She was afraid she could be killed,” Thines said of her decision to place the 911 call to police.
Butler’s body was found June 13, 2020, at Martin Luther King Park, a short walk from the Eighth Street residence where prosecutors say Boothe and Butler lived together. During Thursday’s hearing, Maisch alleged that Boothe and Jackson were living together for three days before Butler’s body was discovered.
Butler had been missing for more than a week when police received a tip that Boothe might be linked to her disappearance. Police obtained a warrant and searched the Eighth Street residence. Butler was not located, but her belongings were there.
Other items found inside the residence — muddy boots and shoes, Walmart receipts for shovels and a pick, and cleaning supplies — led police to the nearby park, a short walk from the Eighth Street residence. Park trail cameras reportedly showed Boothe coming and going from the area.
“We began to work some grid patterns through the wooded areas and found a freshly overturned area, which was consistent with a possible burial site,” LPD Detective Brian Snyder said at the time.
A suitcase and Butler’s body were dug up in the park.