Felony murder charges have been filed against Batesville residents Nathaniel Walmsley, 36, and James Trimnell, 38, by the Ripley County Prosecutor's Office. The charges stem from the July 30 death of Walmsley's wife, Rachel.
Prosecutor Ric Hertel held a press conference at the Memorial Building Nov. 8 to discuss the investigation into Walmsley's drug overdose death.
"The investigation by the Batesville Police Department began July 30 and was completed in mid-October, when it was forwarded to me," Hertel said.
On July 30, BPD Detective Blake Roope was contacted by Sgt. Danny Hamilton, who said Nathaniel Walmsley "brought his wife into Margaret Mary Health of an apparent drug overdose," according to a probable cause affidavit filed Nov. 8 in Ripley Circuit Court. By the time Roope arrived at the hospital, the 36-year-old had died.
That evening, her husband talked to the detective about what had happened earlier that day at his residence. He and his family were having a barbecue. Around 5 p.m., his mother arrived and shortly thereafter his father stopped by, the document noted.
About 7 p.m., "Nathaniel and Rachel went upstairs to use some heroin that Nathaniel had gotten from a friend a few days earlier along with a clean needle. Neither Nathaniel's parents nor his children saw them go upstairs. Nathaniel warmed up the heroin in a spoon. Nathaniel shot Rachel up in her left arm, and then shot himself up. Afterward, both ... came downstairs and had a cigarette.
"Sometime later, Nathaniel asked himself, 'Where's Rachel?' and found her lying on her side in the bathroom. She seemed passed out, had a weak pulse and shallow breathing. Nathaniel and his 15-year-old son carried Rachel upstairs to bed .... Then Nathaniel took the needle out of the top dresser drawer, cut it up and discarded it in the woods near the residence."
Later, he and his son carried Rachel to his car, and he drove her to the hospital.
Walmsley consented to a search of his residence. "During the search, I located a wooden box in the bathroom closet," Roope stated in the affidavit. "Inside ... I located a spoon with burn marks on the bottom and residue in the scoop part .... The needle or cut-up pieces of the needle were never located."
On July 31, after receiving permission from Walmsley, Roope interviewed the 15-year-old son. He said that at 4:40 p.m., his father and mother got into the shower. "Nathaniel was the first to come out of the bathroom, and his mother was passed out on the bathroom floor. She was unresponsive with her back against the wall and seated upright where a towel rack used to be .... His father told him that his mother had slipped and bruised her neck," the document said.
An autopsy was performed July 31 by Dr. Thomas Sozio. In his report completed Aug. 31, he determined Walmsley's cause of death as acute fentanyl and ethanol intoxication.
After serving a search warrant issued by Ripley Superior Court Judge Jeff Sharp, Roope received text messages from Verizon sent from Nathaniel Walmsley's phone to a number later identified as belonging to Trimnell on the day of Rachel's death. "They indicated Nathaniel Walmsley was arranging to buy a gram of heroin from Trimnell."
On Sept. 14, Walmsley provided additional facts. He said he purchased drugs from Trimnell the day his wife died for $100 for 1/2 to 1 gram of heroin. He had also purchased drugs from him on six or seven previous occasions. Walmsley also indicated that he himself always administered the drugs to his wife. "In hindsight, as Nathaniel Walmsley was standing in the hallway and Rachel was lying on the bathroom floor, he remembers thinking she was probably dead. He wasn't sure if he could detect any vital signs."
Trimnell voluntarily spoke to Roope Oct. 2 at the police department. Initially, he said he last saw the Walmsleys one day or a week before she died. "He stated that he did not know that they did any hard drugs." As the discussion continued, "he stated that he dealt a substance to Nathaniel Walmsley that he believed to be heroin the day Rachel died .... Trimnell said he'd gotten the drugs in Cincinnati off of the Mount Healthy exit," according to the affidavit.
Hertel revealed that Walmsley and Trimnell were arrested Nov. 7 and are in the Ripley County Jail, Versailles. Their initial hearings will either be Nov. 9 or 13.
"The decision to file felony murder charges did not come without much discussion with BPD Chief Stan Holt and Detective Blake Roope. I also consulted with the Indiana prosecuting attorney and attorney general.
"If convicted, this charge carries a potential of 45-65 years in jail .... Those are the only charges that are going to be filed now, but we reserve the right to alter that decision if new evidence comes to light."
"This is the first felony murder charge based on an overdose case in Ripley County and possibly the first in Indiana .... A lot of people will be watching to see how this case unfolds," the prosecutor noted.
Holt stressed, "We want to send the strongest message we can, that we are going to aggressively go after the drug dealers .... We have a job to protect our citizens."
Diane Raver can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.