By Keith Benman; Tribune Staff Writer March 13, 2001 Tuesday Marshall Edition Copyright 2001 South Bend Tribune Corporation South Bend Tribune March 13, 2001 Tuesday Marshall Edition
(GOSHEN, Ind.) -- The 13-year-old Marie Kline homicide case, which authorities said had gone cold, was revived at a dramatic Elkhart County Sheriff's Department disciplinary hearing Monday night.
Testimony and cross-examinations in the disciplinary hearing for sheriff's Detective Werner Wegener revealed piece by piece the simmering disagreements over the case that led to a fracas among Wegener and other sheriff's officers Jan. 16.
Witnesses at the hearing, who did not mention the Kline case by name, laid out many of the elements of the unsolved case during hours of testimony.
Kline's father, Wayne Kline, listened along with about 130 others in a packed meeting room in the County Administration Building. Wayne Kline and other sources confirmed the unnamed case mentioned over and over in the hearing was the disappearance of his daughter on Dec. 30, 1987. Her body was found two days later in a field about a mile and a half from her home. It was determined she had died of gunshot wound. She was 21 at the time.
"This whole thing, that's what it's really all about," Wayne Kline said. "This whole shebang we're seeing here tonight."
Kline said Wegener wanted to get a search warrant to get DNA from his prime suspect in the case less than two years ago but was blocked by other sheriff's officers. He said those same officers told him that Wegener did not have enough evidence to get such a search warrant.
Wegener, without mentioning the case by name, quizzed sheriff's Maj. Warren Allender about a tape where the DNA search warrant was discussed. He also questioned Allender about disagreements the two had had about who their prime suspect was in the case. Wegener also claimed he was blocked from investigating the case further. Allender said the case had been turned over to the Indiana State Police cold crimes unit because the Sheriff's Department, including Wegener, had simply stopped making progress on the case.
It was those kind of disagreements which boiled over on Jan. 16, when Allender said he was attacked by Wegener. Allender said he had called Wegener into his office that day to tell him he had to go for psychological evaluation and to place him on paid leave. Allender said Wegener punched him twice after being asked to surrender his badge and gun, part of the standard leave procedure. Allender then subdued Wegener with pepper spray and the help of other officers.
Wegener faces a charge of battery resulting in bodily injury, a felony, in Elkhart County Superior Court 3, in connection with the alleged attack.
At Monday's hearing, Sheriff Tom Snider was seeking Wegener's firing on charges of misconduct and insubordination. Those charges included physical violence against a co-worker, threats of violence, and disregarding superiors' orders, according to the list of charges read by the Sheriff's Department lawyer Michael DeBoni.
Wegener had had a two-day suspension in November of 1999 for allegedly making false statements to Wayne Kline about other sheriff's officers' role in halting his investigation of the Marie Kline homicide. It was at that time Wegener was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation, Allender testified.
Allender said the Chicago firm which did the evaluation said Wegener should be evaluated again if certain behaviors continued. That's why he was called into Allender's office on Jan. 16.
The seven members of the Sheriff's Merit Board decided early in the hearing that no decision would be made on Wegener's firing on Monday night. The hearing promised to be a long one and was still going on as of the Tribune's press time.
Wegener is a 25-year-veteran of the Sheriff's Department, starting his career as a jail guard. He has had 28 letters of commendation from three different sheriffs during his career.
His wife, Melody, and a daughter, Jenny, sat with him in the front row at the hearing. Much of the meeting room was packed with Wegener's relatives and members of his church.