Scott sentenced to life without parole
Austin Scott, one of two men accused in the August 2013 beating death of a Harrison County couple, agreed to a guilty plea deal yesterday in Clark County.
After the guilty plea, Scott was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
‘Certainly, this was an emotional day for the families of Gary Henderson and Asenath (Senie) Arnold,’ Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said yesterday afternoon during a press conference at the Justice Center in Corydon. ‘On two previous occasions, Mr. Scott indicated to the court he was going to take accountability for his role in their murders and then later backed out when it became time to actually take full responsibility. Based upon Mr. Scott’s previous actions in court, the state and the victims’ family were not fully convinced he was going to take full responsibility until he was sentenced earlier today.’
Scott was scheduled to go to trial in Allen County in northeast Indiana next month.
Scott was 18 at the time of the murders of 70-year-old Henderson and 57-year-old Arnold in their Greenville home.
Scott’s co-defendant, Kevin (Drew) Schuler, was charged with murder, robbery, theft and burglary.
Scott and Schuler were accused of breaking into the couple’s home along Walk Drive and stealing guns and prescription pills. Scott is accused of repeatedly stabbing Henderson to death; Schuler is accused of using a wooden stick with a metal end to beat Arnold to death.
In 2014, Schalk announced he would seek the death penalty against both defendants.
Scott agreed in November 2015 to plead guilty to murder and felony in exchange for life in prison without parole. However, on Jan. 14 of this year, Scott asked to withdraw his guilty plea because he said he had felt pressured to accept the plea agreement.
At a later hearing, Scott said he wanted to stick with the guilty plea ‘for the sake of the victim’s family but he did not want to do it for himself.’
Special Judge Vicki Carmichael said a defendant has to ‘freely enter into’ an agreement with full knowledge of the consequences.
The guilty plea withdrawal was allowed by Carmichael.
‘Not just as a prosecutor but as a human being, during Mr. Scott’s previous attempts to plead guilty, our hearts just broke for the victims’ families as we shuffled them into court,’ Schalk said. ‘They had to face their mother’s or father’s killer, their brother’s or sister’s killer, and then to watch him back out was absolutely heartbreaking. It was tough. But today, one chapter in this horrific tragedy is closed for the victims’ families.’
Schalk said Henderson and Arnold led lives ‘each of us’ should aspire to and said they were staples of the community.
For 20 years, Henderson gave pony rides under a carousel he constructed at Joe Huber’s Family Farm and Restaurant in Starlight. He and Arnold owned and operated Welcome Home Carriages.
Henderson’s daughter, Sue-Z Schmelz, after Schalk spoke, said their father and Arnold loved to interact with children while giving carriage rides.
‘We weren’t going to believe it until we saw it,’ Schmelz said of the guilty plea. ‘It’s a sense of closure for our family. At least we know he’s never going to do this to anyone else. He’s gone.’
Schmelz said she took the time to speak to Scott earlier yesterday in the Clark County courtroom.
‘I think it was important for me. For three years, it’s been all about the people who killed our parents,’ she said. ‘It’s never been about the family. We’ve never got to speak and say our word. So, today was about saying this is what you took away from us; two loving people. They’ll never be here again. Your one action changed everything. I think it’s important for him to know how we feel …
‘The day you took them, you took your own life. He’s not going to spend a day at a family reunion, not going to be at a wedding, not going to be at a birth of a niece or nephew. He’s not going to be there. He took those things away from himself. I asked him if he thought it was worth it.’
Schalk said Scott will be transported to Wabash Correctional Facility, hopefully, within 24 hours.
‘A case like this amounts to an emotional roller coaster … ‘ Schalk said. ‘Today, I hope the families of Gary Henderson and Asenath Arnold can rest assured Mr. Scott will never take a breath of fresh air … Mr. Scott will never know freedom as that inalienable right has been stripped of him for the remainder of his life.’
As for Schuler, who has pleaded not guilty, the death penalty will still be sought. His trial is set to begin in January in Hamilton County.