Jury deliberations will continue Wednesday in Carroll County Circuit Court to determine if a New Windsor man should be convicted of murder and other related changes in the 2016 death of his fiancee.
The seventh day of proceedings in the trial of Bret Michael Wheeler began Tuesday morning as Judge Barry Hughes read the jury instructions to take into account while trying to reach a verdict. Closing arguments from both sides followed before the jury entered into deliberations at about 1 p.m.
The jury was dismissed for the evening after more than five hours of deliberation Tuesday afternoon. The case will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Wheeler, formerly of the 2000 block of Dennings Road, is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and accessory after first-degree murder, according to electronic court records. He is charged as a co-conspirator to Robert Theodore Bosley, who was convicted in April of murdering Kandi Gerber, Wheeler's fiancee, on Aug. 8, 2016.
Deputy State's Attorney Edward Coyne delivered the prosecution's closing argument.
"This is a case where the defendant chose Robert Bosley over his fiancee Kandi Gerber," Coyne said.
He argued that repeated choices made by Wheeler on Aug. 8, 2016, proved his guilt as an accomplice. Bosley's attack, Coyne alleged, was planned, deliberate and premeditated; and Wheeler knew of Bosley's intent to harm Gerber.
Conspiracy, Coyne said, could be inferred through the actions of the parties during the surrounding circumstances.
Coyne argued that — according to Wheeler's own admission during interrogation — after learning that Bosley had harmed Gerber, Wheeler, in Coyne's words, "doesn't beat Robert Bosley till his arms won't move; he didn't bloody his knuckles."
The pivotal moment during the events of Aug. 8, Coyne said, occurred when Wheeler went down to the basement, saw Gerber was still alive and chose to assist Bosley by keeping watch outside instead of attempting to assist Gerber.
He called into question the defense's claim that Wheeler was under duress following the murder, citing the fact that Wheeler had the "wherewithal" to wrap the blade in plastic in order to prevent himself from being associated with it through DNA evidence.
Coyne also cited witness testimony that Wheeler was allegedly alone in his truck while Bosley purchased alcohol at a liquor store following the murder but did not take the opportunity to take action without Bosley's influence. Wheeler, Coyne said, chose to flee and to hide evidence after the murder because he was conscious of his own guilt in the situation.
"[Other witnesses] Brad Merrell and Sandy Schwartz did what the defendant didn't do: They chose not to help Robert Bosley," Coyne said.
Matthew Williamson, one of two attorneys in Wheeler's counsel, presented the closing argument for the defense.
"We all are here for a very important reason; this isn't a tiny case. This is the case," he said.
The detective who interrogated Wheeler, Williamson said, deployed many tactics to extract information from his client, but Wheeler did not vary from the facts of the case as corroborated by state's witnesses. He also readily gave law enforcement information that helped them locate the murder weapon.
He told the jury that the state did not have "a scintilla of evidence" to support the charges of first-degree murder and assault or conspiracy to commit each.
In order for the jury to convict Wheeler of accessory after first-degree murder, Williamson said, the first burden was to prove that a first-degree murder had occurred. Bosley did not plan to kill Gerber, he said, but rather the murder was the result of an eviction gone wrong.
"You and I are going to wrestle over accessory after the fact — that's all we're going to focus on," he told the jury.
In support of Wheeler's duress, he cited the distress of the witness who called 911 after discovering blood in the basement, whom he characterized as hyperventilating despite the presence of her boyfriend and contact with a 911 operator. Wheeler, Williamson said, is the same age as the witness and actually witnessed Gerber's body without any such emotional support.
"That's duress," Williamson said. "Nobody wants to think about what Bret went through."
He characterized the state's arguments about Wheeler's alleged lack of action to save Gerber as "Monday morning quarterback" arguments, stating that legally there is no obligation for Wheeler to have done so.
"It's awful to think about," he said, but said that there were several reasons, including fear for his own life, that Wheeler may not have acted in Gerber's defense.
"I implore you to use common sense. This is an eviction gone bad," he said.
In the state's rebuttal, also delivered by Coyne, the prosecution stated that even if the jury agreed that the killing resulted from an eviction gone bad, "when [Wheeler] comes back and sees what he sees — that act of helping puts him on the hook."
He also cited the fact that Wheeler is about 55 pounds heavier and 5 inches taller than Bosley and questioned the defense's claim that Wheeler feared Bosley. Wheeler, he argued, chose to assist Bosley.
"He was part of the team, before, during and after," Coyne said, later adding: "Kandi Gerber deserved better than Bret Wheeler. She deserved a better end of her life. She deserved better than to be treated like a piece of trash."
The jury went into deliberation at around 1 p.m. and alternate jurors were released from duty.
"This was a very well tried case for both sides," Hughes said to both the prosecution and the defense. "It goes to prove that you can have a hard-fought case without being uncivil."