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Friday 26 January 2007

Suspect will go to trial for 1968 murder

By: Kevin Grasha

Dr. Charles William Mercer will stand trial for the 1968 death of his wife, a district court judge ruled Thursday

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said she had some reservations about the evidence in the case, calling it inconsistent and unreliable. Still, in sending the case to circuit court, she said: "The Mercer family and the public needs to have this case put behind them."

A trial date has not been set.

In earlier arguments Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Eric Matwiejczyk told the judge that Mercer was the only person who could have killed his wife nearly 39 years ago.

Matwiejczyk presented his closing arguments to Aquilina during the conclusion of Mercer's preliminary hearing, which has been held periodically since June in 55th District Court. The preliminary hearing was held to determine if the case would go to trial.

Carol Smith of Shelbyville, a lifelong friend of Sally Wiseheart said of the ruling, “I am very shocked, really surprised. I didn't think it would ever happen, those detectives have put in so much work on this case. If he is innocent maybe they will be able to prove that. A lot of people here didn't know him and I don't know how they feel about it. I would hate to think that the man Dale and I liked so much did something so horrible. Maybe he did. I don't know. In this country we are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.”

Another friend of Wiseheart, Herb Campbell said, “Well, from the way all of the articles have read it sounded like he needed to stand trial on it. It was just a really good family here in Shelbyville and everyone was so shocked when this happened. I hope he is punished for the crime . It sounded as if he was guilty and if he is, I hope he is punished for it.”

Sally Sue Wisehart was the daughter of a prominent Shelbyville family. Her father, Gill Wisehart, was a practicing dentist in Shelbyville in the 1950's and 70's. She was well known at Shelbyville High School and was a cheerleader and participated in other activities.

Carol Smith said that Sally was always full of energy and seemed to be the last person who would get sick. “We used to play this game, we would climb the staircase and see who could jump the farthest. Sally always went up higher than me. But it wasn't just that. She had more pep and enthusiasm in everything she did.”

Mercer, who is free on a $1 million bond, is charged with murder in his wife's 1968 death. If the case wasn't sent to trial, “it would fly in the face of reason and common sense,” Matwiejczyk told Aquilina.

Sally Mercer's cause of death originally was listed as polio, stalling any criminal investigation into her death. The case was reopened in the mid-1990s.

An August 2003 autopsy of her remains showed her body tissue contained high levels of the pain-reliever propoxyphene. But in a blow to the prosecution, Aquilina ruled this morning that testimony that Sally Sue Mercer died of a lethal dose of propoxyphene is inadmissible.

Smith added, “All we can do is go by what the court decides. One way or the other he will answer to a higher power someday.”

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