The mystery of what happened to William Shepard, 28, Liberty, a year and a half ago may be closer to being solved.

“The dead body of William Garrett Shepard was discovered in the passenger compartment of his maroon van by Franklin County Sheriff’s (Department) Deputies Andrew Voelker and John Roberts June 11, 2018, in the parking lot of Mount Carmel School,” wrote FCSD Maj. Gregory Mehlbauer in a probable cause affidavit that was filed in Franklin Circuit Court Division 2 Dec. 2.

The Hamilton County (Ohio) Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy and determined Shepard’s cause of death to be a heroin overdose, with ethanol (alcohol) also present.

Mehlbauer then began investigating the death. “After speaking with several witnesses and reviewing camera footage, I determined that Shepard had spent the evening of June 9, 2018, at the Pioneer Bar in Brookville,” and had walked from there to the Brookville residence of Michael Presley, 29, with a friend. According to the friend, Presley was home with his girlfriend Shelby Nichols. The friend claimed that he then left, and Shepard remained at the residence. It was the last time he saw Shepard alive.

The major conducted multiple interviews and obtained search warrants for Shepard’s cellphone and financial records. The affidavit stated, “I learned that Shepard’s cellphone and wallet were recovered by an employee of the Brookville Street Department in a storm drain that was located approximately 100 yards from Presley’s residence.”

On Oct. 21, 2018, Mehlbauer interviewed Presley, who was incarcerated at the Franklin County Security Center, Brookville, for reasons unrelated to this investigation. According to the inmate, Shepard appeared at his residence around 3 a.m. June 9, 2018, requesting drugs. “Presley stated that his mother forced everyone to leave, and that he had no knowledge of Shepard’s vehicle, phone, wallet or his subsequent whereabouts.” He also mentioned that Benjamin Herd, 30, Batesville, had been present at the residence when Shepard arrived.

A year went by. Then the major learned that Nichols was incarcerated at the Franklin County Security Center for reasons unrelated to this case. He interviewed her Oct. 23 regarding the events surrounding Shepard’s death.

Mehlbauer wrote, “After initially denying any knowledge, Nichols stated that during the early morning hours of June 9, 2018, she and Presley were asleep at his residence when Shepard appeared at the home with another individual. Shepard expressed to Presley his desire to get drugs, and Presley requested that Nichols drive the two to Cincinnati to obtain them. Nichols refused, but did agree to retrieve Shepard’s van, which was parked behind the Pioneer Bar. On the way back to Presley’s house, Shepard accessed a (bank) machine (which is consistent with the financial records that I had earlier obtained). Nichols once again refused to drive to Cincinnati, so Presley and Shepard left and she went back to sleep.

The chief deputy continued the narrative. “The next morning, Nichols awoke to screams and observed Presley standing over the top of Shepard, who was unresponsive on the floor. Presley told her that Shepard ‘fell out,’ which I know is slang for overdosing. Nichols attempted to perform CPR on Shepard and Presley refused to assist. In addition, Presley warned Nichols not to call the police. Herd assisted Presley in picking up Shepard’s body and carrying him to the van. Presley drove the van away with Herd following in his own vehicle. Later, Presley returned home without the van, Shepard or Herd.”

Presley and Herd each face two charges: altering the scene of death, a Level 6 felony; and failure to report a dead body, a Class A misdemeanor. The information documents noted the men had “custody of the dead body of William Garrett Shepard, when it appeared that Shepard had died from poisoning or an overdose of drugs, and ... (they) unlawfully, knowingly or intentionally failed to report the body of Shepard to a public safety officer, coroner, physician or 911 call operator within three hours of finding the body.”

The affidavit concluded, “The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible.”

Franklin Circuit Court Division 2 Judge Clay Kellerman conducted Presley’s initial hearing Dec. 12. He set a pretrial conference for Feb. 13 at 1 p.m. and a jury trial for April 15 at 8:30 a.m., according to https://public.courts.in.gov/mycase, the Odyssey case management system used by Indiana courts.

An arrest warrant was issued for Herd Dec. 2. Three days later, Herd and his attorney, Judson McMillin, Brookville, filed a demand for a jury trial and two motions, one for discovery and the other to withdraw the arrest warrant and set an initial hearing, which was held by Kellerman Dec. 17.

Franklin County Prosecutor Chris Huerkamp reported, “Mr. Herd did in fact enter a preliminary plea of not guilty, and the court scheduled a pretrial conference for Feb. 20, 2020, and a jury trial for April 22, 2020. Those dates, of course, are subject to change upon motion of either party or the court.”

He reminded, “A formal charge is merely an accusation and all criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

About the case, Huerkamp commented, “I have to acknowledge the efforts of Chief Deputy Greg Mehlbauer and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department during the course of this investigation. As you can see from the probable cause affidavit, thanks largely to those efforts, Mr. Shepard’s family and friends finally have some answers, unpleasant as they may be, about the final hours of their brother, son and friend.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-717-3113.