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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Murder charges dismissed

Friday, April 6, 2012

In a 2008 Times File photo, Clay County Sheriff's Department jailers escort John Lovett to the Clay County Courthouse. Lovett's murder charges were recently dismissed.
On March 23, an off and on case spanning more than 20 years has come to an end, with the dismissal of the double murder charges against John Lovett, Brazil.

According to officials, Lovett has been the main suspect for the majority of the case, which focused on the murder of Tonya Pickett and her stepfather Ricky Mustard in November 1988.

Members of Lovett's defense counsel, Dorie Maryan and Mary Spears, Gilroy, Kammen, Maryan and Moudy Law Firm, Indianapolis, informed The Times of the new information in the case and gave a background on it.

According to Maryan, the latest charges of two counts of murder were filed against Lovett in March 2008.

The charges stemmed from an Indiana State Police (ISP) cold case investigation in 2003, which reopened the case and started a long line of legal proceedings.

"The cold case investigation dismissed all other suspects early on and began focusing on (Lovett)," Maryan said. "There was no other evidence except he was the last person to see her and people at (the Northview High School dance both Pickett and Lovett attended the night of the murder) said they may or may not have had a fight."

She added Lovett was able to make bond before the trial began.

"(Lovett) was released on bond before the trial in December 2008," Maryan said. "Then we began the process of deposition with the initial focus on the people who attended the high school dance."

Maryan said the evidence that went along with both the initial and cold case investigation was substantial in size.

"There were almost 30 (evidence) binders of interview statements, lab testing, various telephone records and year book photos," Maryan said. "One thing that was targeted by the police was letters from the victim (Pickett) and Lovett. There were almost 200 letters that were found in Tonya Pickett's bedroom by her mom after her death."

She added Lovett also voluntarily supplied police with letters he had in his possession, and in June 2008, Lovett's defense counsel requested a change of venue from Clay to Hendricks County.

"At some point, the state decided in order to successfully prosecute (Lovett) they would need to admit these letters," Spears said. "They sought a pretrial order asking the judge to determine the admissibility of the letters; that request was filed in June 2009.

"(Hendricks County Superior Court) Judge Robert Freese held a hearing to review the letters, and on Aug. 26, 2009, Judge Freese issued a ruling on the motion and excluded some of the evidence (the letters) the state was seeking admissibility on, and then the state requested an appeal."

Spears said the issue of the admissibility of the evidence went up to the Court of Appeals.

"Basically the appeals process was like any other criminal appeal, the person who filed (the appeal) gets the first and last word," Spears said. "What we were saying was that the state didn't have the right to bring up evidence of the victim's state of mind (as determined from the letters).

"After both sides had written about it, it stayed at the Court of Appeals for a surprisingly long time. We wrote in late 2009, and didn't get it back until spring of 2011 when we got an opinion from the Court of Appeals."

According to Spears, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court's ruling to keep the letters out.

"The state asked the court to reconsider and asked for a petition for rehearing, on July 18, 2011," Spears said. "And then again the Court of Appeals took a while to decide on that petition as well. (It took) from July, until February 2012, but the Court of Appeals ultimately said, 'No, we will not reconsider our opinion; our first decision was right.' The state had the right to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to look at the case, but they decided not to.

"At that point, when the state decided not to take the appeal any further in March, the trial went back to the trial court. And then, on March 23, (the state) filed the motion to dismiss the matter."'

According to Maryan, Lovett and his defense had maintained his innocence from the start.

"Since the beginning, we believed (Lovett) to be innocent. The manner in which the murders were committed were very brutal, both victims were shot in the face with a shotgun, and the theory was the young woman had broken up with our client and he was so enraged he went over and murdered the stepfather and Pickett."

She added there wasn't ever any concrete evidence as the gun was never recovered and in 1988 there wasn't much along the lines of DNA testing.

Maryan said the defense felt Lovett being capable of the rage needed to commit the brutal crime was highly unlikely due to the fact Lovett didn't have a criminal record before and has not shown any type of violent behavior in the years following the crime.

Readers are encouraged to comment on this article at www.thebraziltimes.com.

An up-to-date timeline of the murder investigation can also be found online attached to this story.

Murder Timeline

Information used to create this timeline was taken from the archives of The Brazil Times, along with information provided over time through other media outlets, Indiana State Police and court documents available at the Clay County Courthouse.

November 18, 1988

It was raining when Cheryl Mustard left for work in Greencastle, leaving her husband Ricky, 32, home alone at 110 W. Pinckley St., Brazil. The family had moved into the home located near the intersection of Pinckley and Franklin streets approximately one month prior.

Ricky, a former Marine, was at home recovering from paralyzing injuries caused by a motorcycle accident in July 1988.

His stepdaughter Tonya Pickett, 16, and her boyfriend John Lovett, 18, attended a basketball game and dance at Northview High School.

8:30 p.m.: Shane Mustard, 13 at the time, calls his father to arrange a meeting for the following weekend.

10-10:30 p.m.: Pickett and Lovett go to McDonald's with friends.

11:15-11:30 p.m.: Lovett takes Pickett home.

11:30-11:40 p.m.: Lovett phones Pickett; it is the last known contact with the victims.

November 19, 1988

1:15-1:30 a.m.: Cheryl Pickett arrived home to discover her husband and daughter shot to death. Although a weapon was never found, a 3-inch Magnum 12-gauge shotgun casing was found at the crime scene. Information is released that each victim was shot in the face. Officials believe the murders took place sometime after midnight.

1:30 a.m.: Members of the Brazil City Police, Clay County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State Police (including BCPD Capt. Roger Lindsay) arrive on scene to begin investigating the double homicide. The initial investigation centers on Mustard as the prime target by the murder suspect(s), with Pickett being murdered because she was home. An anonymous tip then leads investigators to believe drugs may be involved in the murder.

8 a.m.: Lovett calls Ricky Mustard's family, informing them about murders.

Later that morning, local residents use metal detectors to help canvas area during the rain for potential clues and evidence in the case.

November 19-20, 1988

Witnesses come forward, reporting they heard a loud car circling the neighborhood several times the night of the murder and muffled gunshots sometime shortly before midnight.

During interviews with the media, Clay County Prosecutor Fritz D. Modesitt reports the murders were done "execution style," while Indiana State Police Det. Sgt. Don Collins releases information that entry was probably gained through the front door of the victims' home.

November 21, 1988

Michael Clark, of the Indiana University Medical Center, performs autopsies on both victims. Officials said final results would take several weeks.

November 22, 1988

Clark announces preliminary autopsy results, saying that both Pickett and Mustard died from gunshot wounds to the head, with the suspect using one deer slug per victim to shoot both through their right eyes.

Officials announce there will be a "media blackout" on further details surrounding the crime.

During interviews with Pickett's Northview High School classmates and teachers, it is disclosed that she told her friends her greatest fear was "coming home and finding her mother and stepfather dead."

November 23, 1988

Family and friends attend the double funeral ceremony for Pickett and Mustard.

Mayor Norval Pickett, Tonya's father's great-uncle, tells the media the double-homicide is like a "jigsaw puzzle" while announcing a reward has been set up in the case. Businesses and local citizens donated "unsolicited funds" totaling more than $2,000 for a reward to be issued to the person who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) involved in the crime.

February 23, 1989

Brazil City Police Chief Billy Love announces the reward has risen to $6,000. People with information are urged to contact Love or Capt. Roger Lindsay at the department.

March 30, 1989

ISP Chief of Detectives Sgt. Jerry Statler announces officials have a suspect in mind and have located a potential weapon in the double homicide case, which is undergoing testing at an undisclosed lab facility. Statler said the suspect was living in the Brazil area, but declined further information about the case.

April 3, 1989

Mustard's mother Helen Lanham tells The Brazil Times she believes her son was "run off the road" during a motorcycle accident around 2:52 a.m., July 23, 1988. Not wearing a helmet when found by city police officers, Mustard was approximately 25-feet from his motorcycle on North Depot St. Apparently, Mustard left the road for "some unknown reason" and hit a utility pole.

Lanham said her son could barely raise his right arm and was in the process of learning how to do everything with his left arm. She couldn't believe he would be involved in drugs because it was too expensive.

She was frustrated with the investigation, especially because officials did not notify her first when her son died, and the rumors surrounding the double homicide.

It was announced during the interview that Cheryl Pickett had moved to the Chicago area.


Lindsay leaves the Brazil City Police Department and moves away from Clay County.

Active leads in the Pickett/Mustard murder dwindle, which is why it becomes a cold case.

Spring 1993

According to information provided by Pickett family members in prior interviews, the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" was contacted about profiling the double homicide. However, when producers of the program contacted local authorities, presiding Mayor Norval Pickett Jr. and officials at the Brazil City Police Department refused access. The family was told the denial was because it might conflict with the ongoing investigation.


Leaving Indiana, Lindsay moves to Florida.

December 2002

Cheryl Pickett contacts the Indiana State Police Cold Case Homicide Investigative Unit about becoming involved.

July 2003

Officials of the Indiana State Police Cold Case Unit begin investigation into case.

July 28-29, 2003

Former Police Captain Roger Lindsay is requested and voluntarily returns to Indiana to assist an official review of evidence in the case. Lindsay is employed as a federal police officer with the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

July 2003--November 2004

Three witnesses come forward to allegedly recant prior "false" statements to cold case detectives. A fourth individual informs cold case detectives of alleged additional threats and intimidation by Lindsay. Although not a suspect in the investigation, the cold case team shifts its focus to Lindsay's alleged misconduct during the initial investigation, including perjury, obstruction of justice and intimidation.

January 9, 2004

Indiana State Police officials hold a press conference to request public input in the renewed investigation into a new direction in the case. Anyone who might have spoken to Tonya Pickett the night of the murder or seen a small light colored car near the scene of the crime, with special attention to the time frame of 10 p.m.-1 a.m., was requested to contact officials. Officials reported a new suspect has come to the attention to investigators, but no information was made available.

October 28, 2004

Officials involved in the case announce more than 100 witnesses have been interviewed during the ongoing cold case investigation.

November 2004

Lindsay is requested and again returns voluntarily to help investigators review evidence in the case. During an interview, officers serve Lindsay with a subpoena for him to appear at Grand Jury proceedings, of which he will be a "target."

December 7, 2004

Grand Jury convenes in the Pickett/Mustard case.

December 9, 2004

After filing a motion to quash the subpoena, Judge Ernest Yelton approves the motion and Lindsay (in Florida) does not appear to testify.

After three days of deliberation, the Grand Jury announces there was enough evidence to indict Lindsay. He was charged with one Class C count of corrupt business influence (RICO-racketeering) and two counts of Class A misdemeanor charges of false informing. Lindsay is arrested at his home in Florida.

December 17, 2004

Lindsay is extradited back to Indiana, taken into custody by Indiana State Police officials and transported to the Clay County Jail.

December 20, 2004

Formally arraigned in Clay Circuit Court, Lindsay pleads not guilty and posts a $10,000 cash bond. He returns to his home in Florida.

Lindsay's defense attorney Scott E. Racop issues a press release stating that his client does not understand why he is being charged in the matter and believes the charges are without merit. Cooperating fully with the cold case investigation, Lindsay believes the charges are in retaliation for his filing a civil suit against the Indiana State Police, which was later dropped.

November 4, 2005

Lindsay and attorney Racop file a motion to dismiss the charges, citing they did not survive the statute of limitation for the Class C felony charge of racketeering.

December 2, 2005

During a hearing on the matter of the racketeering, the court dismisses the racketeering charge against Lindsay.

December 13, 2005

Special Judge Matthew Headley issues response to Lindsay's motion to dismiss the charges. Headley finds that the state can continue its case against Lindsay for the two false informing charges, but not continue with the corrupt business influence (RICO-racketeering) charge.

March 9, 2007

The State of Indiana files a motion in the Court of Appeals regarding the dismissal of Lindsay's charge. Deputy Attorney General Cynthia L. Ploughe said the state's cause for why the court should overturn the dismissal, while Lindsay's attorney did not cross-file a motion in the case. In a case opinion released by the court, the pattern of Lindsay's alleged misconduct did not meet the requirement of the statute of limitations, which expired in 2001. Lindsay's alleged offenses in 2003 and 2004 do not constitute RICO charges, and upheld the lower courts dismissal of the untimely filing of the charge in late 2004.

January 30, 2008

Special Prosecuting Attorney David N. Powell requests the Clay Circuit Court to call into session a Grand Jury. The Clerk of the Court issues a venire for people to appear for Grand Jury service in the matter of the Pickett/Mustard murder case. Thirty people were contacted to appear on Feb. 20.

February 4, 2008

Information is released about a potential second Grand Jury convening to hear evidence in the Pickett/Mustard case.

February 7, 2008

Officials hold a press conference confirming a Grand Jury will convene in the case. Eight jurors are to be seated by Circuit Court judge Joe Trout on Feb. 20, with the jury scheduled to begin reviewing evidence and hearing testimony from 230 potential witnesses at the Clay County Justice Center on Feb. 25.

March 8, 2008

Officials met with various family members and media outlets at the Clay County Justice Center to announce an arrest had been made in a 20-year-old Clay County cold case. Pickett's boyfriend at the time of her murder, Brazil resident John Lovett, 37, was taken into custody and formally arraigned in Clay Circuit Court on two counts of murder. Lovett was tentatively scheduled to appear for a jury trial at 9 a.m., Aug. 4, 2008.

May 2008

After his family raised and paid the 10 percent of the $200,000 cash bond April 16, 2008, Lovett voluntarily turned himself in to authorities May 12, 2008. Clay Circuit Court Judge Joseph Trout rescinded the bond after extensive research discovered an error in the court proceedings. Trout said he felt it was important to correct the situation to protect the integrity of the court proceedings. An evidentiary hearing, which allows a defendant to present evidence and challenge the case against them, was supposed to take place in order for bail to be set, but it did not.

The court ordered Lovett remains in custody until the evidentiary hearing could take place.

June 2008

On June 5, Lovett's defense counsel requested a change of venue from Clay County. claiming the case was a source of great controversy, rumor, gossip and innuendo in the community. Four days later, the prosecution indicated to the court they did not object to the trial jury being selected from another county.

August 2008

On Aug. 12, 2008, Lovett's defense attorney Richard Kammen presented the testimony of several witnesses in court in an attempt to the show that the Grand Jury was presented potentially one-sided testimony during the February proceedings. Special Prosecuting Attorney David N. Powell said it was an unusual and rarely used court proceeding.

Focusing on which victim was shot first, the position of Pickett's body and whether it was moved after her death, Kammen questioned the autopsy reports, crime scene photos and interpretation of that evidence.

At conclusion of the court proceedings, Trout said the attorneys had agreed to present submissions to the court of highlighted rebuttal testimony from the more than 3,000 pages in order to speed up the bond process.

October 2008

Judge Joseph Trout heard final oral arguments from the defense and prosecuting attorneys in the evidentiary portion of the bond reduction hearing Oct. 17.

Although Trout previously reviewed a large amount of Grand Jury testimony at the request of the prosecution and defense attorneys from Lovett's previous court appearance in August, they requested he review more testimony before making a decision that could potentially set a legal precedent in Indiana.

Trout told the court at the end of the proceedings a written decision as whether he will grant or deny Lovett's request for bond would come within a few days.

On Oct. 21, Trout ordered Love was eligible for bail and the jury trial proceedings would be handled in another venue.

According to the order, the lengthy evidentiary review process indicated the state's circumstantially based evidence in the case was not sufficient enough to prevent Lovett from receiving bail. However, the bail, which was set at $200,000 with 10 percent allowed, was made a cash bond with no 10 percent allowed. To ensure the case is judged by fair and impartial proceedings, Trout agreed the case should be venued out of Clay County.

December 2008

On Dec. 17, Lovett was released after his family paid the whole $200,000 cash bond to await further court proceedings in the matter. The case, which is tentatively scheduled for a jury trial on Feb. 23, 2009, is venued to Hendricks County Superior Court Division 1.

February 2009

Due to legal filings by both the prosecution and the defense regarding admissibility/certification of "certain evidence," the jury trial is put on hold.

August 2009

With new legal filings in the case nearly every month, on Aug. 7, the case grinds to a halt while Hendricks County Superior Court Judge Robert Freese decides what would be considered admissible during the upcoming jury trial. At the center of the debate were letters the state wishes to use as evidence written by Lovett and Pickett from 1986-88.

On Aug. 26, Freese rules the letters are not admissible as evidence due to Indiana rules of evidence and their being irrelevant to the case because they were not "dated."

September 2009

Freese granted the state's request for an appeal on the decision with the Indiana Court of Appeals.

May 2010

Both the state and the defense complete their portions of briefing the court of appeals on their positions regarding the admissibility/certification of letters into evidence.

February 2011

On Feb. 18, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued its response/opinion, upholding Freese's previous ruling and siding with the defense that the letters would not be admissible.

Officials recently confirmed to The Brazil Times the state is able to "transfer" the case to the Indiana Supreme Court for another opinion/appeal the ruling. However, the state has yet to make a filing in the matter.

If the Indiana Supreme Court accepts the transfer, the proceedings will wait for the ruling.

If the Indiana Supreme Court declines the transfer, the case will be set for a jury trial.

July 2011

The state asked the Court of Appeals to reconsider the ruling that the letters would not be admissible and asked for a petition for rehearing.

February 2012

After taking nearly seven months, the Court of Appeals ruled it would not reconsider the previous decision of not allowing the letters to be admissible into evidence.

March 2012

After the February ruling, the state had the right to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to look into the case, but ultimately decided not to. When the state decided not to take the appeal any further in March, the trial went back to the trial court. Then on March 23, the state filed the motion to dismiss the matter.

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Nowhere in this article did I see the phrase "with prejudice". Just the lack of that phrase can't be comforting to the Lovett family. This case could be brought up again.

-- Posted by My Dime on Sat, Apr 7, 2012, at 9:19 AM

RIP TO THE VICTIMS. Sad and very strange story indeed.

-- Posted by Combat VET on Sat, Apr 7, 2012, at 11:35 AM

As the old saying goes--When you hear hoof beats look for horses, not zebras. The state investigators insisted on looking for zebras. Evidently, the state investigators are the only ones who don't know who did this.

-- Posted by Zen on Sun, Apr 8, 2012, at 8:13 PM

The victims and their families will not have peace. To Zen: if the state investigators are the only ones who don't know who did this, why isn't anyone coming forward with what they know?

-- Posted by indianamama on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 6:32 AM

ZEN: you sound like an idiot. Just because they don't have enought physical proof to continue to trial (as what the article is saying if you can read), does not mean they are not looking at the corrrect suspect. You are a disrespect to the investigators that has worked long hours and so hard on this case. Shame on you!

-- Posted by I'm Just Saying on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 10:35 AM

Sorry, ZEN is right. Lovett did not do it and for some reason the state investigation would not look at the long time suspect. This case will never be solved the the suspect will never be charged.

-- Posted by PAB2007 on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 11:39 AM

See that is where you are wrong. Unless you have "concrete" evidence on who did it, then you cannot rule him or anyone else out. Also for you to say they would not look at the long time suspect, yes they did, acutally for many years and that is why nothing could ever be charged. Looking down the wrong road.

-- Posted by I'm Just Saying on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 11:58 AM

Its funny how some people can get away with murder!

-- Posted by officers_wife on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 12:12 PM

how do you know he didnt do it @PAB2007? Just because they dont have enough evidence doesnt mean he didnt do it!

-- Posted by officers_wife on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 12:18 PM

If they only lived in that house for a month - I hope the authorities looked into tha fact that maybe whoever lived there before were the real targets. I sure wish we would learn the truth for everyon's sake - the victim's families sakes and for the sake of anyone who is innocent of the crime that may have been accused or rumored about.

-- Posted by indianamama on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 12:33 PM

Article was incorrect. They had lived in that house for at least 7 months that I know of.

-- Posted by I'm Just Saying on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 1:06 PM

they had lived there longer than a month.

-- Posted by officers_wife on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 4:58 PM

Darn it. Everyone seems to know who did it except me!

-- Posted by My Dime on Mon, Apr 9, 2012, at 7:36 PM

Every year around the anniversary of the day Tonya and Ricky were shot, my husband (Rickys oldest son Shane) gets real depressed.he doesnt handle the death well even to this day and the fact that they dropped the charges on this piece of crap doesnt help matters.ever since the death the family has always suspected that Lovett did it.he very well may have!

-- Posted by officers_wife on Tue, Apr 10, 2012, at 11:46 AM

They didnt have enough evidence on O.J. either, but everyone knows he did it.

-- Posted by MS660 on Tue, Apr 10, 2012, at 5:03 PM

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