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Tuesday, October 01, 2019 1:00 am

Attempt to delay trial is rejected

Defense finds new witness in case of slain assistant coach

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

The murder trial of a Fort Wayne man charged in the slaying of a popular assistant football coach two years ago is set to begin today, despite a request by prosecutors to postpone. 

They sought the delay Monday and unsuccessfully challenged a move by defense attorneys Aaron Stoll and William Lebrato to add as a witness a man who recently pleaded guilty in a separate case to neglecting a toddler who died. 

Shane Patton has information about Henry Underwood's case and could testify Wednesday or Thursday, Lebrato said. 

Underwood, 25, is charged with murder, felony murder and attempted robbery in the May 19, 2017, shooting death of Terrance Miles, 36, outside East Central Towers. 

Patton, 32, admitted his role in the death last year of his then-girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter and was sentenced last week to 16 years, with two years suspended and 14 years behind bars. He was housed at the Allen County Jail on the same cell block as Jaevin Bowie, who was with Underwood the night Miles was killed. 

Neither Stoll nor Lebrato indicated in a court hearing Monday what Patton's testimony might be. 

Underwood's lawyers said they learned Friday about Patton's information and invited prosecutors to the jail to talk to him.

Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Stineburg said neither he nor anyone else from the prosecutor's office was available at that time. He and Deputy Prosecutor Alison Yeager would need more time to prepare for trial, Stineburg told Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull. 

Gull denied a motion to delay the trial and approved adding Patton as a witness. 

Underwood and Bowie, who also had been charged with murder, were rooting through cars at the complex when Miles emerged from one of the buildings, according to court documents. Bowie pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal and attempted theft and reportedly told investigators Underwood walked toward Miles and shot him. 

Patton's expected testimony will in a way bring together two court cases that have taken unusual turns. 

Underwood's trial had been scheduled for August, but it was delayed after a key witness failed to show up for depositions. In a March letter to the judge, Underwood said Bowie lied, accusing him of changing his story after being confronted by police. 

Patton pleaded guilty in July to two counts of felony neglect in the death of Jocelyn “JoJo” Belcher, but later said he wanted to take back the plea and was accused of wanting to flee before sentencing. One of his defense attorneys withdrew from the case after Patton secretly recorded him and posted the audio to social media. 

Underwood's trial is expected to last three days. 

mleblanc@jg.net