- Posted September 5, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
double murder and rape in small town
WHITE CO.—While there were several present in support of Jacob Wheeler and Jessica Evans, the majority of the large courtroom
Craig Poole and Doug Maier escort Danny K. Coston to the courthouse this morning for Coston’s first advisement of charges
this morning held supporters of Danny K. Coston as Coston’s first advisement of charges went underway at about 9:32.
This fact created a palpable amount of tension and prompted a host of police officials to pull security in the courtroom, as well as to and from the jail for Coston’s walk from there to the courthouse. Coston, however was not wearing a bulletproof vest as many murder suspects have in recent cases around the area. Seven deputies and/or police officers/ISP troopers took up various positions in the courtroom when Coston was brought in.
Coston, appearing ruddy-faced, was patted on the back in what appeared to be a reassuring gesture by Sheriff Doug Maier as he ascended the couple of steps up to the area that lead to the jury box. And as Coston took his seat, a man in the crowd shouted out to him “We love you Danny! We all love you.”
That very thing was addressed by Judge Tom Sutton, however, when he took the bench.
Sutton advised that there would be no outbursts of any kind in his courtroom, and that anyone who made any kind of remark, gesture, or anything at all disruptive would be removed.
That said, Sutton read the charges to Coston, and judging by the gasps and weeping in the courtroom, it was the first time many had heard the news that there was a sexual assault charge in the midst of the murder charges.
Coston is charged with five Class M felonies of First Degree Murder in the shooting deaths of Wheeler and Evans. Class M felonies are not probationable and carry with them a sentence of 20 to 60 years in DOC each. The first count is First Degree Murder with intent to kill or do great bodily harm to Jacob Wheeler; the second count is First Degree Murder for shooting Wheeler knowing such act would cause his death; and the third count is First Degree Murder for shooting Wheeler knowing that such act created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm to Wheeler.
Count 4 is First Degree Murder in the shooting of Evans, alleging intent to kill or do great bodily harm to her; and the fifth count is First Degree Murder in the shooting of Evans knowing such act would cause her death.
Michele Wheeler, the blond on the right, walks up to greet Harold Wheeler
It’s important to note that these separate counts are done in this way because of separate actions Coston is alleged to have taken just prior to what authorities believe is the separate shootings. It’s not legalese, nor is it “stacking” of charges hoping that if one doesn’t stick, another will. As the court proceedings unfold, more will be learned about the actions authorities alleged Coston took leading up to the shootings, and the wording will make more sense.
Count 6 is perhaps the most disturbing count.
The count lists that Coston “committed the offense of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault in that he committed an act of sexual penetration (sexual intercourse) by threat of force and personally discharged a firearm during the commission of the offense, which proximately caused the death of Jessica M. Evans.”
The wording of this leads a reasonable person to infer that Coston is alleged to have killed Evans while he was raping her.
Much has been made about the fact that White County coroner Carl McVey advised that there was “no other trauma” to the body of Jessica Evans, thus leading many to believe that she was not sexually assaulted. However, Disclosure did ask authorities last week if Evans was sexually assaulted, and was told she was not. Apparently that was an integral part of the investigation that they didn’t want out in the public, since they appeared to believe, as the week wore on, that they had their eye on the suspect. Under the circumstances, we believe this is understandable. However, many have expressed outrage, especially since so many days went by with the possibility that there was a killer walking free among the populace, and it might’ve helped to have been informed that the alleged killer might also be considered an alleged rapist.
Counts 7 and 8 are Aggravated Battery with a Firearm, in that Coston, while allegedly committing a battery, “knowingly and by means of discharging a firearm” that caused the death of Wheeler in Count 7, and Evans in Count 8.
Finally, Count 9 is Concealment of Homicidal Death, in that Coston is alleged to have knowingly concealed the murder of Wheeler by “transporting his remains from the murder scene in White County to a remote location in Wayne County, and in so doing intended to prevent or delay the discovery of the death” of Wheeler.
All of this is alleged to have taken place on August 26. Details we have learned about the night in question will be held for the print version of Disclosure, which will reach White County on or about September 14.
During the hearing, Sutton asked Coston if he intended to hire an attorney, have one appointed, or represent himself in court. Initially, Coston said he would hire one….but his family spoke up against Sutton’s orders and shouted that he was going to have one appointed. Sutton mildly admonished the group but went on with the hearing, setting a preliminary (review of the evidence) for September 12 after appointing Edwards County attorney Jerry Crisel to defend Coston.
Coston’s family was allowed to hug him before he was taken away from the courtroom and sent back to jail. Contentions weren’t necessarily verbalized between the groups who were there in support of either Coston, Wheeler or Evans, but they could be detected.
Perhaps the most stinging form of contention came from Coston’s mother, who, when departing the courthouse, shielded her face from the many media cameras present by holding up a manila folder on which was handwritten, “Not guilty” and another member held up a folder reading “Not guilty we love you Danny.” The other families did their best to hold back verbalizing anything about the assertions and conducted themselves honorably.
Jacob Wheeler’s wife, Michele Wheeler, was present with Jacob’s father Harold Wheeler. The elder Mr. Wheeler was contentious toward Disclosure, mainly because he seemed unable to differentiate between what actual news reports are versus comments on the reports, especially on Facebook. It appeared Mr. Wheeler was largely familiar only with Disclosure‘s Facebook page, as many other news outlet pages throughout the region, in covering the story, had far more offensive comments appearing, and staying, on their pages; Disclosure continued to call down negative postings, as well as deleting many, unlike other area coverage of it. However, Mr. Wheeler continued to insist that Disclosure “lied about everything” during coverage, and seemed intent on getting that point across. Disclosure holds no ill will for Mr. Wheeler; in this day of social media, for someone unused to it, it can at times be difficult to discern. In fact, Disclosure is behind the growing effort to insist to White County’s Crimestoppers group to pay Harold Wheeler the $2,000 reward offered for evidence leading to the arrest of the person responsible for Jake’s and Jessi’s deaths. We’ll have more on that as the day progresses. It’s Crimestoppers’ policy to not give money to the family of whomever may have found the evidence or had information. We believe in this case, an exception should be made, as it was Harold Wheeler who found the parts of Coston’s vehicle in the area of the murders that lead to his apprehension and charges. Michele Hillier told Disclosure that Jacob’s funeral, set to take place tomorrow, will cost upwards of $14,000. That Crimestoppers reward would be put to good use under the circumstances.
There is more coming, and we’ll post it as we are able. Thank you for being patient with us as our site expands, and please be sure to grab a copy of this month’s issue. If you like what you see, please consider getting a subscription to our print version, or signing up for an online membership, as those are how the bills for the increased server space are paid….and we THANK YOU profusely for trusting Disclosure to bring you your news on this tragic story.
This small town really needs your help. Coston was a well known, well liked person. He is also really good friends with sheriff Maier. I feel, along with a lot of people, that sheriff Maier is keeping it all hush-hush to try to protect Coston. He’s a murderer and rapist for crying out loud!! The sheriff won’t even tell us whose gun it was that Coston used. Maier didn’t even tell anyone that she was raped when they did the autopsy on her. They weren’t in any way there to protect any of the citizens when the suspect was unknown. Please help this community get the answers they deserve, especially the families of the victims.