Bench Trial Requested for Ind. Sheriff’s Son in Arson Case

July 19, 2007

A Johnson County, Ind. judge will hold a bench trial for Morgan County Sheriff Robert Garner’s 23-year-old son, who faces arson and other charges.

Robert Jake Garner faces 19 felony counts, including eight counts of arson, for a series of suspicious fires since 2001 in Morgan County, southwest of Indianapolis.

Garner’s attorney, Daniel S. Vandivier, requested the bench trial Monday, which means Circuit Court Judge K. Mark Loyd, rather than a jury, will hear evidence and decide Garner’s guilt.

The charges link Garner to fires that destroyed a vacant modular home and ones that damaged a vehicle salvage lot and a landscaping business.

Investigators said several people told them they were either with Garner when he started fires or were intimidated by him into starting fires themselves.

The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

The case will be heard by the Johnson County judge and a special prosecutor was brought in from Shelby County because Garner’s father is sheriff

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