WARRICK CO., Ind (WEHT) After deliberating for several hours, a jury has found Brian Baumgartner guilty of murder, abuse of a corpse, and obstruction of justice.
During closing arguments, the prosecution argued the timeline shows it is impossible that Baumgartner did not help Anthony Wolfe, Jr. kill Valarie Ruark in 2019.
Warrick County Prosecutor Michael Perry called Baumgartner’s chain of events a “grim fairy tale,” adding that the only thing missing from his testimony was the phrase “once upon a time.” Perry says Baumgartner’s testimony ultimately may have done more harm than good. Perry says Ruark’s family saw justice, but adds it’s still a very emotional situation.
The defense argued there was no ‘plan’ to kill Ruark, and that Baumgartner provided police help in solving the case. He showed them the route Baumgartner and Wolfe took to pick up Valarie, which helped police get surveillance video.
Ruark’s burned body was found in a field near Elberfeld. Evidence presented Wednesday morning revealed her skull was found in 48 pieces. An anthropologist from USI was called in to assist with reconstruction of her remains.
Wolfe had previously been found guilty of murder, abuse of a corpse, and obstruction of justice back in May. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison. After the jury’s deliberation in the Wolfe trial lasted all night, Perry says people in his office were prepared for another long deliberation but he says they purposely left closing arguments until Wednesday so jurors would go into deliberations with a “fresh mind.”
When Baumgartner took the stand Tuesday, he said he heard a gunshot and when he went outside, Wolfe told him to get back in the house. Wolfe then left for about 40 minutes and when he came back, Baumgartner says that’s when Wolfe told him he killed Ruark.
That was the fourth version of events Baumgartner had given. During cross examination, the prosecution asked which version should be believed. Baumgartner said, “the one I just told you.” When asked why he lied three other times, Baumgartner replied, “I didn’t want to be a snitch.”
On Monday, his ex-wife, Ivory Dewig, testified against him. She said Baumgartner told her Wolfe and Ruark got into a fight and Wolfe beat her up and left her on the side of the road. Dewig was given 18 months of probation for obstruction of justice for her role in the case.
Wolfe and Ruark’s drug supplier also testified with immunity during the trial. He told the court that on the night Ruark was murdered, Wolfe told him “We went and picked her up and I shot her.”
While Baumgartner is scheduled to be sentenced December 2nd, Warrick County Chief Public Defender Warren Malthies says he could still file for an appeal.
Malthies explains that case law in Indiana is heavily against amending charging information, especially on the last day of the trial. Warrick County Coroner Sarah Seaton testified that a typo on Ruark’s death certificate led to the mistake.
The Ruark family declined to comment on the verdict.