On Dec. 19, 2019, the Indiana Supreme Court declined to accept transfer of the Court of Appeals’ decision that resulted in the dismissal of murder charges against Nathaniel Walmsley. The Supreme Court’s denial formally ends the state’s ability to appeal the Court of Appeals’ decision and ensures that Walmsley will not face a murder charge for injecting his wife, Rachel Walmsley, with drugs that resulted in her death, according to a Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office press release.
This case began in July 2017 when Nathaniel and Rachel were hosting a family barbecue at their Batesville residence. Pursuant to the facts alleged in the probable cause affidavit, during the cookout, Nathaniel injected both himself and Rachel with a syringe filled what they believed to be heroin. The results of Rachel’s autopsy later confirmed that the substance was actually fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. He obtained the drugs from James “Al” Trimnell earlier that day. During the cookout, Nathaniel found Rachel passed out on the bathroom floor. Then he and his 15-year-old son carried her up to the bedroom. Hours later, Nathaniel took his wife to Margaret Mary Health, where she was ultimately pronounced deceased shortly after her arrival.
The Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office charged Nathaniel Walmsley with felony murder for injecting his wife with a lethal dose of fentanyl resulting in her death. Felony murder occurs when another person is killed during the commission of certain felonies including the dealing of drugs. A motion to dismiss was filed by Walmsley and was denied by the trial court. On Aug. 29, 2019, following an oral argument before the court, the Indiana Court of Appeals found that Ripley Circuit Court Judge Ryan King abused his discretion when denying the dismissal of the felony murder charge. The Court of Appeals stated, “Because the evidence shows that Nathaniel and Rachel jointly acquired possession of the drug for their own use the moment Trimnell dropped it off at their house, Nathaniel did not ‘deliver’ the drug to Rachael when he injected her. Therefore, he can’t be charged with felony murder for injecting her. We, therefore, reverse the trial court’s denial of Nathaniel’s motion to dismiss the felony murder charge.”
Following the Court of Appeals’ decision, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, who represents the state in all criminal appeals, requested that the matter be transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court. Prior to a case being accepted by the Supreme Court, a vote is conducted by the five members to determine whether they are interested in the case being transferred to them. On Dec. 23, 2019, the court voted 3-2 in favor of not accepting transfer of the case, resulting in the Court of Appeals decision becoming final. With felony murder no longer an option, Walmsley was charged with possession of a narcotic drug and neglect of a dependent, both Level 6 felonies.
Regarding the decisions, Prosecutor Ric Hertel stated, “While we respect the decision of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, we are very disappointed with the outcome, and our hearts are heavy for Rachel’s family. We felt the defendant’s conduct warranted the charge of felony murder but understand that the court’s decision ends this case and a jury will not hear it as a murder case. As always, my office will continue to aggressively address those who deliver drugs in our community with every tool we have available at our disposal.” Regarding Walmsley’s pending charges, Hertel stated, “All pending charges are merely allegations and the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.”