Ohio Justices Send Wehrung Case to Adult Court - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

7-18-2001

Ohio Justices Send Wehrung Case to Adult Court

Attorneys for a 53-year old man failed to convince the Ohio Supreme Court that he is still a teenager.

In a 5-2 unexplained decision, justices ordered Michael Wehrung to stand trial as an adult for the 1963 murder of his high school girlfriend, Patty Rebholz, despite both being 15 at the time.

On that fateful night 38-years ago, the popular cheerleader disappeared while walking from a teen dance to meet Wehrung. The next day, police found her beaten, bloodied body in a wooded lot across the street from his Greenhills home.

Weeks later, after numerous interviews and no charges, Juvenile Court Judge Benjamin Schwartz, made Wehrung a ward of the state and ordered investigators to leave the teen alone.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen re-opened the case just last year, re-testing evidence such as Rebholz's blouse, the murder weapon (a fence post), and Wehrung's clothes.

Since then, everything had centered around changes made to Ohio's juvenile justice law in 1996. The new rules prohibit a juvenile court from taking jurisdiction when an adult is charged with a felony committed as a juvenile.

Wehrung's attorneys claim he spent time in custody at the juvenile detention center. In fact, newspaper headlines at the time captioned long hours of interviews in which police grilled him about that night.

However, prosecutors successfully argued that police never charged or arrested Wehrung during the initial investigation. As Judge Dinkelacker noted in the first hearing, "This defendant... was often questioned, often investigated, and always went home".

The prosecution's star witness, a former television reporter, testified on tape this summer that Wehrung admitted "another self" may have slapped and killed Rebholz. The same information can be found in a coroner's report.

If Wehrung had won a trial in juvenile court, no matter what the findings, he would have gone free. A person cannot serve time past their 21st birthday for crimes committed as a juvenile. Now, he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.

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