• Last modified 532 days ago (Feb. 8, 2023)


Cop's slip imperils 50 cases

Staff writer

A case in which a Hillsboro man was allowed in January to withdraw October pleas in two cases against him is one of 50 criminal cases being reviewed because the incidents were investigated by former Marion County deputy Joel Womochil, who made a mistake in a report of a July 10 arrest.

Michael A. Stultz, 61, Hillsboro, was allowed Jan. 12 to withdraw his Oct. 11 plea of no contest to driving under the influence. The charge was dismissed. In a separate case, Stultz was allowed Dec. 14 to withdraw his Oct. 11 plea of no contest to driving under the influence.

Stultz pleaded no contest Jan. 10 to driving under the influence. He was sentenced to a year’s probation, to pay $1,005, and was ordered to comply with a drug and alcohol evaluation. Besides one charge of driving under the influence, charges of possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were dismissed.

County attorney Joel Ensey said Stultz’s cases were two of 50 being reviewed individually by the court because affidavits came from Womochil.

“I filed a motion for an in-camera inspection,” Ensey said.

An in-camera inspection is when a judge inspects all documents and evidence related to the case, even documents a defense lawyer would not get to see, Ensey said.

Nothing was necessarily wrong with the affidavits in Stultz’s cases, Ensey said. The inspections arose because the July 10 arrest reports might reflect on Womochil’s veracity.

He said he asked the judge to review the cases in hope of determining the truthfulness of Womochil’s reports.

Womochil resigned from the sheriff’s office Nov. 30 after a mistake in the July 10 arrest report came to light.

In November, charges against all four suspects arrested that day were dismissed. At that time, Sheriff Jeff Soyez said the error was that Womochil’s report said a syringe had been dropped on the ground, but in-car video showed the syringe had been thrown from the car before Womochil made contact with the driver.

A defense attorney could have used that discrepancy to cast doubt on the validity of the arrest, Soyez said.

Charges against David L. Bean, 52, Newton; Bernadette M. Paris, 46, Moundridge; Michelle L. Stevens, 35, Peabody; and Jackie W. McHolland, 51, Moundridge, were dismissed Nov. 1 and 2.

Bean was charged Aug. 16 with distribution of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, having no drug tax stamp for a controlled substance, and possession of THC and drug paraphernalia.

Stevens was charged with possession of methamphetamine, marijuana, THC, and drug paraphernalia.

McHolland was charged with interference with law enforcement, possession of methamphetamine, and THC, and having no proof of insurance.

Paris was charged with possession of methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.

Womochil said he did not make a mistake on the report.

“My original reason I stopped him was valid,” Womochil said. “I believed he had dropped it and after talking to them, that’s when it came out that he had thrown it out. I never lied about that. I never hid it. This is insane.”

Womochil said when he picked up the syringe that night, he was stuck by its needle and had to go to the hospital. In the suspect’s hurry to get rid of the syringe, he pushed the needle into its cover so quickly that it bent and protruded through the cover.

Last modified Feb. 8, 2023