UPDATE: Tonch Weldon will spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally shooting Amy Gephart in the heart because his wife planned to leave him for her in 2009.
An Iowa County jury, seven men and five women, came back just before 11 a.m. Monday with their verdict: guilty of first-degree murder. The jury deliberated for almost five days following the week-long trial that wrapped up last Wednesday.
A juror, who didn’t want to be identified, said after the verdict they were “stuck” on one jury instruction – how to interpret it. He wouldn’t say which instruction.
The two questions the jurors had during deliberations were if they couldn’t come to a unanimous decision should they then consider a lesser charge and does an instruction regarding reasonable doubt pertain to a jury as a whole or each individual.
The judges and attorneys didn’t answer the questions, except to refer the jurors back to the instructions.
The other jurors contacted by SourceMedia Tuesday declined to comment.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 15 in Iowa County District Court.
Weldon, 39, of Blairstown, who was emotional and cried at different times throughout the trial, was almost emotionless as the verdict was read and afterward as the deputies walked him back to the jail.
Jim and Nancy Gephart, Amy’s parents, looked relieved after the verdict. Family members and friends who filled the courtroom were in tears and hugged each other.
Weldon’s family and friends were visibly upset and his mother was sobbing as her husband tried to comfort her.
In a statement, the Gepharts thanked the jurors for their time and attention during the trial.
“Amy was our only child and we had 35 wonderful years with her,” BJ Franklin of the Horizons Survivors Program said reading the statement. “She was a talented writer, photographer, and musician. She loved children and shared her interest in science and nature with them.”
The Gepharts have established an Amy Gephart Memorial Trust at the Hartman Nature Center for the education and availability of field trips for young children, Franklin said.
“Amy Gephart loved animals and nature and developed a native prairie as a senior project at the high school,” Franklin said. “The domestic violence issue was very near to Amy’s heart and she would assist victims in any way possible through food, clothing and finances.”
In their statement, the Gepharts thanked the Iowa Attorney General’s office, including Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins and Candis Lockard of victim services; Iowa County Attorney Tim McMeen; the Division of Criminal Investigation; the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office; the Marengo Police Department; and the Horizons Survivors Program for their “sensitive and professional handling of this situation.”
The Gephart family also thanked the media and public for their support.
Iowa County Attorney Tim McMeen said the prosecution was happy with the verdict and wanted to thank the Attorney General’s Office, DCI, Iowa County Sheriff’s Office and the Marengo Police Department. He also thanked the jury for their service.
“Justice was served,” McMeen said. “Our sympathies go out to the Gepharts and Amanda (Weldon) and her children.”
McMeen said this was the longest trial deliberations in Iowa County.
Edward Leff, Weldon’s attorney, declined to comment after the verdict.
During the trial, the defense argued the shooting was a “crime of passion.” It happened in the moment without premeditation, Dennis Cohen, another of Weldon’s attorneys, told the jury during his closing. He asked them to consider voluntary manslaughter.
Timmins said in her closing Weldon, an avid and experienced hunter, aimed and shot Amy Gephart, 35, directly in the heart. She said the shooting was deliberate and premeditated. Gephart was shot once in the chest with a 20-gauge shotgun before Weldon turned the gun on himself June 7, 2009 in his home.
During the trial, Tonch Weldon’s wife Amanda Weldon testified she and her husband had an open marriage, and Gephart lived with them and was their sexual partner until she fell in love with Amanda Weldon. They had decided to leave Tonch Weldon, and after arguing that day, Amanda said Tonch shot Gephart in front of her and then tried to shoot himself more than once.
The trial started July 15 and wrapped up last Wednesday.