Judge rules on motions in Wilcox murder case

Published 10:17 am Thursday, July 2, 2009

The man may appear in court in street clothes, but he can’t send a letter to one of his children.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper issued the first in what is likely to be numerous rulings Wednesday in the case of accused murderer Thomas Wilcox.

The Ironton man is accused of assaulting and then setting a fire to his estranged wife, Amy Wilcox, in late April. She died last month of injuries she sustained in that incident. If he is convicted in connection her death he could face the death penalty.

Some of the rulings Wednesday were formalities.

As is the case with most if not all people accused of crimes, Cooper ruled Wilcox does not have to wear a jail uniform when he appears in court in the future; he may wear street clothing.

Wednesday, and previously since his arrest, Wilcox has appeared in a striped one-piece suit worn by other inmates housed at the Scioto County Jail.

Wilcox is being housed out of the county in part because of the burn wounds he sustained in the fire and overcrowding at the Lawrence County Jail.

Other issues Cooper considered were less routine.

Paul Scarsella, special prosecutions unit coordinator for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, asked Cooper to direct Wilcox not to attempt to communicate with his daughter, Emily, or other family members who may testify during the trial until after the case is closed.

“This morning I was handed a letter from the defendant to one of his children, his daughter Emily,” Scarsella said. “Emily Wilcox is a witness. We ask that he (Tom Wilcox) have no contact with her in any way or with any other family member until the conclusion of the case.”

Knight asked Cooper if Wilcox would be permitted to respond to any family member who contacts him first.

Scarsella told Cooper neither Emily nor Trevor Wilcox have indicated they want any contact with their father.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has been appointed special prosecutor in the case because members of the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office have conflicts of interest.

The two sides in the Thomas Wilcox murder case will meet again Aug. 5 to discuss a number of motions that have already been filed and will meet regularly after to discuss the case. All future status conferences will be conducted in open court.

“Everything needs to be presented on the record,” Cooper explained after the pretrial conference. “We need a record of exactly what was said and done and what is agreed to.”

There was one change in defense counsel: Rick Finley, who is Eachus’ law partner, had prior commitments.

Meigs County attorney Charles Knight, who is also certified as a defense counsel in death penalty cases, will take his place. Eachus and Knight have worked on other death penalty cases in Lawrence County, most recently that of Roger Marshall, convicted in 2006 of murdering three people and setting a fire at the Lyle Motel.

Wilcox was indicted on three different aggravated murder charges alleging different theories surrounding how and why he committed the murder of Amy Wilcox.

He is also charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, domestic violence and, because his daughter was in the home when he allegedly set the fire, he is also charged with child endangerment.