August 10, 2005
Jury: Man is guilty of killing youngster
Jury recommends Aaron Rohr be sentenced to life in prison.
By Tim Evans
VERNON, Ind. -- A Jennings County jury found Aaron Rohr guilty Tuesday of killing his girlfriend's 5-year-old son and recommended that the burly truck driver and 4-H volunteer be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The jury deliberated 51/2 hours before returning the verdict in the April 26 death of Samuel Moore, who died of head trauma, which doctors said was the result of a severe beating.
Rohr, 34, rural North Vernon, showed no emotion when Judge Jon Webster of Jennings Circuit Court read the verdict to the charge of murder. Rohr also was found guilty of three counts of battery and one count of neglect.
"Clearly we're very happy with the verdict in this case," said Gary Smith, the Jennings County prosecutor. "Finally, Sam gets some justice."
Rohr and his family called the verdicts an injustice. They denied Rohr had any involvement in the child's death.
"I feel like there's been a big injustice done here today," said Rohr's cousin, Tracey Hill, New Palestine, who spoke for his family. "I know Aaron is innocent."
Hill said she thought the 12 jurors -- five men and seven women -- came into the case with a bias against her cousin. While family members were disappointed by the guilty verdicts, Hill said they weren't surprised.
"We had expected this," Hill said. "We knew it was going to be an appeals case."
After the verdicts were read, the judge reconvened the jury to hear testimony regarding the prosecutor's request that Rohr receive the life sentence.
Prosecutors called three police officers and played a recording of a telephone conversation last week between Rohr and the child's mother, Donna Moore, in an effort to show Rohr was not remorseful about the child's death.
During the conversation, Rohr and Moore talked about her pregnancy and joked about sex and drugs. They also lamented the "mug shot" of Rohr that has appeared in news accounts about the killing.
The jury deliberated about an hour before coming back with the recommendation that Rohr spend the rest of his life in prison.
Officials said the death penalty was not appropriate in the case. Much of the evidence was circumstantial, there were no witnesses, and there appeared to be no premeditation or motive.
The jury's recommendation was required for Webster to sentence Rohr to a term longer than the standard sentence for murder, which is 45 to 65 years in prison.
The judge said he would set a formal sentencing date for Rohr on all five counts.
Jurors declined to comment as they left the courthouse after the trial.
Leaving the courthouse, Rohr said he was innocent and misses Sam.
Donna Moore, 23, who testified for the prosecution but refused to blame Rohr for her son's death, was not in the courtroom to hear the verdicts.
When reached by phone at her home in Elizabethtown, Moore -- who is pregnant with a child she says is Rohr's -- said she was not aware of the outcome of the trial and declined to comment further.
Moore met Rohr, a truck driver, when he made deliveries last fall to the mail processing facility where she worked near Columbus, Ohio. She and Sam moved into his home in February.
Prosecutor Smith said every case involving a the death of a child was terrible, but Sam's death was particularly troubling because of the extensive nature of the injuries the boy suffered.
Doctors testified his body was covered with more than 75 bruises of varying ages, indicating he had been beaten repeatedly.
Hill said she and Rohr's family did not understand why prosecutors didn't go after Moore, who has a history with child protection officials in Ohio.
While Moore previously was suspected of abusing her son, Hill said Rohr had no history of abusing or mistreating children.
She also noted that Rohr worked with children in 4-H and had custody of his two children.
Hill added she wasn't surprised Moore was not at the courthouse to hear the verdicts.
"She don't care," Hill said disgustedly.
Smith declined to comment on the possibility of Moore facing charges in connection with her son's death, but Detective Jim Blevins of the Jennings County Sheriff's Department said that was still a possibility.
Blevins said investigators were continuing to look at what role Moore might have played in the child's death.
Call Star reporter Tim Evans at (317) 444-6204.
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