A Jackson Circuit Court jury returned a verdict of not guilty against a county commissioner and Crothersville educator accused of the felony theft of a gun and criminal conversion.
The decision in favor of Andrew “Drew” Markel, 35, of Seymour came shortly after 8 p.m. and after about six hours of deliberations that began with closing arguments delivered by Markel’s attorney, Mark Dove of North Vernon, and Special Prosecutor William “Bill” Nash.
The decision brought some tears and cheers from Markel’s family and supporters.
Dove said he believed the verdict completely vindicated his client, and Markel said he was happy with the outcome and very happy with the support of his family and friends.
Nash said he respected the verdict and felt justice had been served by the 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, owned by Mark and Lauren Hopkins, in downtown Seymour. He also is assistant superintendent with Crothersville Community Schools, but has been on administrative leave.
Detective Matt Loyd with the Indiana State Police testified his investigation began in June of 2016 when the Hopkins reported Markel had purchased a handgun with a gift card originally issued to a customer Dec. 26, 2015.
Markel testified Thursday he didn’t know why he failed to “zero out” that gift card in early January of 2016 after a confrontation between the two. The confrontation stemmed from the customer’s return of a handgun he had purchased because he said it didn’t work. The customer had received a $255.73 gift card at the time he returned the gun.
“I’m sorry we’re all here,” said Markel on the stand. “I did not mean to use a gift card that wasn’t mine. It was an honest mistake and I did everything in my power to fix it.”
That include repaying the store.
At the time of the confrontation, Markel was told by Lauren Hopkins to give the customer his money and “get him out of here.”
Markel testified he gave the customer the money, but put the gift card in his pocket and took it home and forgot about it because of the confrontation.
“I don’t know what happened that day I don’t know why I didn’t zero the card,” Markel said.
Markel said he later mistook it for a gift card he had received from his mother-in-law when he went to purchase the gun in June 2016.
On Wednesday, Nash called Lauren Hopkins to the stand and she testified Markel knew how the gift card system worked and how to remove a cash balance from one.
Markel said during his testimony that he was given two other gift cards — with no money value on them — from the store to take home because he had been working on a website for the store and the plan was to sell gift cards through the website.
During earlier testimony, both Mark and Lauren Hopkins said they had talked about selling gift cards but had never decided to do it and Markel did not have permission to take the gift cards home.
Markel further testified he and Lauren Hopkins had had an ongoing disagreement about an antique gun he had purchased from the store earlier and later sold for a profit on a website. He said this added to the hostility between him and her.
Lauren Hopkins testified the sale of the antique gun was the only other questionable thing she had known Markel to do while working at the store. That’s because he did not have a license to sell a gun, and she believed he had possibly purchased the gun with the intent of selling it, which is illegal, she said.
Markel testified the website he sold the gun through did not require a license and that he had originally intended on keeping the gun until he found out its real value.
Markel’s wife, Sharon, also testified Thursday that they had spent $30,000 on the purchase of guns as an investment for their future.