Marion County prosecutors have backlog of 194 pending murder trials- despite pair of convictions Wednesday night

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INDIANAPOLIS — Marion County prosecutors secure a pair of murder convictions Wednesday night as they begin to dig out from a massive backlog of cases.

The pair of guilty verdicts are only the 4th and 5th murder trials that resulted in convictions in Marion County this year, which means 194 other families are still waiting for justice.

While attending his own bachelor party at Jake’s Pub on Indy’s south side in late 2019, Christopher Smith was murdered 13 days before he was set to marry Schena Singer.

“I don’t feel like I’ve healed from Chris passing away yet,” said Schena Singer.

Photo of homicide victim Christopher Smith.

On Wednesday night a jury convicted Derek Oechsle of Smith’s murder.

Prosecutors say Smith was trying to be a peacemaker and break up a fight between Oechsle and another man.

“When I first went and saw the prosecutor, they said we can’t give you closure, but we can give you justice, and that’s what they did,” said Singer.

Also on Wednesday night, a different jury convicted Gamron Tedford of murder. In 2018 Tedford shot and killed 20-year-old Jeshon Cameron at a gas station.

“These families have waited a long time to get here. It’s been a long journey to get to the trial,” said Marion County prosecutor Ryan Mears.

Even with this week’s verdicts, prosecutor Mears admits the pandemic has led to a huge backlog of homicide cases in Marion County.

“To put this in perspective, we have anywhere from 140 to 145 pending murder cases at any given time typically in Marion County.  Unfortunately, right now that number is 194 pending homicide cases,” said Mears.

That court backlog also doesn’t include delays in trials for robberies, rapes and other violent crimes.

“You know typically we could do 10 trials a day at the City County Building and now we’re lucky to do 2 or 3 a week,” said Mears.

Because jurors are being seated in the courtroom galleries to provide social distance, there have also been severe restrictions on families watching the trials.

Still, Schena feels fortunate to have closure in her fiancé’s case, so that she can move forward with forgiveness.

“I don’t want to hate the guy because if I let hate consume me, that will hurt me more.  I have to forgive him for me, not for him,” said Singer.

In addition to the two convictions, a Marion County jury returned a not guilty verdict in a third murder trial this week against a security guard who killed a woman last year.

Sentencing for the two convictions is set to take place next month.

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