UPDATE: Since his initial hearing Brandon Woody has filed a letter with the court asking for a public defender. Scott Lennox has been appointed.
It had to take courage for Rhonda Bickel and her husband, Garry Bickel, to walk into Kosciusko County Circuit Court and see the person charged with murder of their son and step-son, Joshua Randall Knisley.
Brandon Thomas Woody, 23, 605 North St., Syracuse, appeared in court this morning for his initial hearing on two counts of the Feb. 19 murder of Joshua Randall Knisley, 19, and Tara L. Thornburg, 23.
The courtroom, filled with a handful of individuals and four inmates awaiting hearings and who were whispering among themselves, became quiet when the courtroom door opened and the emotions of Mrs. Bickel filled the room. Both mother and stepfather sat staring at their son’s accused murderer while they awaited for the hearing to begin.
Woody, dressed in a black and white jail jumpsuit, sat in the jury box. He was shackled at the wrists and ankles with a belly band. A knuckle bump was given to him by another inmate when he appeared and when that inmate left the courtroom. The male inmates talked quietly among themselves, a few times Woody laughed. At least one jailer stood watch at the doorway into the back halls of the court.
Kosciusko County Senior Judge Duane Huffer presided over the initial hearing. Huffer read Woody his constitutional rights and the charges against him. It was noted murder carries an advisory sentence of 55 years, with a minimum of 45 years and a maximum of 65, presenting a sentence range of 45 years to 65 years.
Grief overcame Mrs. Bickel throughout the procedure including when the charges regarding her son’s murder were read by Huffer.
Woody told the court he would obtain his own attorney, at which time Huffer stated he had a limited amount of time to do so. Entering the standard plea of not guilty, Huffer set an omnibus and pre-trial date of 3 p.m. April 27, with a status conference at 10 a.m. March 30.
The hearing was adjourned with Woody being led out of the courtroom back to the Kosciusko County Jail.
Funeral services for Knisley were held Tuesday morning. Thornburg’s funeral services were held Wednesday morning.
Knisley was found dead in a home at 205 E. Main St., Syracuse, at approximately 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Thornburg died from her gunshot wound Friday morning. Woody, who was initially sought as a person of interest in the case after being identified by Thornburg at the crime scene, was arrested later that day in Mishawaka by Indiana State Police and undercover officers with the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department.
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