The prosecution wrapped up the second day of its case against a county commissioner and Crothersville educator accused of felony theft of a gun late Wednesday afternoon in Jackson Circuit Court in Brownstown.
Andrew “Drew” Markel, 35, of Seymour, who also is being tried for a Class A misdemeanor charge of criminal conversion, likely will have the chance to present his side of the story — if he chooses to do so — sometime today in front of the six-member jury.
The charges stem from a series of events culminating in Markel using a gift card that did not belong to him to purchase a firearm from Bite the Bullet on June 4, 2016, according to court records. Markel was a part-time employee of the store in downtown Seymour.
Both the state, represented by Special Prosecutor William B. Nash of Columbus, and Markel, represented by North Vernon attorney Mark Dove, laid out opening arguments that leave at least one question open for debate — why did Markel use the gift card?
“This is not a whodunit,” Nash said. “The only thing we don’t agree on is the why.”
Dove said his client simply forgot to empty or “zero out” the card’s balance after dealing with an “irate” customer, Markel put the card in his pocket so his hands would be free and then forgot about it because of the events of the day.
Nash said Markel did not appear stressed enough in the video of the confrontation, shown to the jury Wednesday, to forget about the card and added he also had ample time to rectify the problem.
Dove said Markel had spent more than $30,000 at the store, and if he had wanted to steal from the company, he had plenty of other opportunities to do so less conspicuously.
Lauren Hopkins, who co-owns Bite the Bullet with her husband, Mark Hopkins, spent Wednesday morning testifying about the incidents that led to Markel being indicted earlier this year.
She said it began Dec. 26, 2015, when a customer bought a pistol from the store. The man who purchased the .22-caliber pistol later returned it because it didn’t work. The man received a gift card for $255.73, the amount he had paid for the firearm.
Lauren Hopkins testified she asked Markel to take the gun to his farm to see if he could determine what was wrong with it.
Markel brought it back and said there was nothing wrong with the gun, but the customer had not known about a hidden safety feature on it, Lauren Hopkins said.
The customer returned Jan. 7 with the intent to spend the gift card, she testified.
Hopkins said she asked Markel to explain to the customer about the safety feature on the gun to see if he might be interested in repurchasing it.
The video of that conversation shows the customer and Markel getting into a confrontation, which escalated to the point where police were called.
Lauren Hopkins testified that’s when she told Markel to refund the customer’s money.
Under cross-examination by Dove, she said she could not remember if she told him to “zero out” the card. Hopkins, however, said all of the store’s employees knew how the system worked and knew how to remove a cash balance from a card.
Hopkins, who keeps the books for the business, also testified she discovered Markel had used the gift card to purchase a Shield handgun on June 6 because the card contained the same amount of money as the one returned to the customer after the earlier confrontation.
That’s when Markel was confronted about the issue, she said.
The Indiana State Police then was brought in to investigate the incident.
Detective Matt Loyd said in the probable cause affidavit that on June 10, 2016, Markel apologized for the incident and said he had made an honest mistake. He also included a $257 check.
After opening statements Tuesday, Markel’s mother-in-law, Janice Teipen, testified she had given him a $100 gift card for Christmas and that she sometimes put odd amounts on gift cards to balance the amounts of her giving to family members.
She also testified she didn’t see her son-in-law as being scatterbrained or forgetful.
Markel’s wife, Sharon, however, testified under cross examination that her husband often is “scatterbrained” and “forgetful” due in part to his suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Wednesday’s testimony wrapped up with Loyd talking briefly with the jury about his 80-minute interview with Markel during the investigation. That interview was then played for jurors.