2018 murder case headed to mediation; could still go to trial if no resolution

August 25, 2021 | 12:10 am

Updated August 24, 2021 | 11:00 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

The murder case involving Matt Adams, who is accused of killing a woman in 2018, is heading to mediation to potentially be resolved without going to trial. 

Adams, now 29, is charged for the murder of 25-year-old Erica Owen, who was found dead in her home on July 3, 2018. Adams is also facing charges of tampering with evidence, first-degree burglary, and theft by unlawful taking over $10,000 in the incident. 

The defense team for Adams filed a motion for mediation with Daviess Circuit Judge Jay Wethington. During a Tuesday morning hearing, Daviess County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel agreed to go to mediation.

Mediation is not binding, meaning that if both parties don’t agree on a resolution the case will go back to trial, according to Michael Bufkin, the attorney representing Adams during Tuesday’s hearing. Bufkin said a retired judge serves as the mediator.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Wethington assigned Phil Patton as the mediator. Bufkin said mediation typically only takes one or two days but can sometimes take longer.

Bufkin said all parties involved — including the victim’s family — can be in the building but typically in different rooms during mediation. Although the family is consulted, the ultimate decision to resolve the case through mediation or not lies with the Commonwealth as the legal party in the case.

Bufikin said the mediator goes from one party to the other to see if they can find “some kind of a reasonable resolution to the case that both sides will live with.” 

The mediator does not serve as an arbitrator, Bufkin said, meaning they cannot impose a resolution and make a disgruntled party accept it. 

“[If] the settlement is reached, it means that both sides have agreed to a resolution to it,” Bufkin said. “… Some mediations don’t succeed, because one or both parties simply can’t come to an agreement. So it just goes back to square one.”

Bufkin said the motion was filed now because “we kind of got to a point to where it should be done, if it is going to be done. So, there’s no particular time pressures that have been placed on either side to mediate.”

The trial was originally scheduled to begin in October 2020 but was cancelled at the time due to the pandemic. A new trial date was never set. Bufkin said he expects a new trial date “soon.”

He said if the mediation succeeds and both sides come to an agreement, the attorneys will ask the court for a date to enter a plea and resolve the case — meaning in this case it will go back to Wethington for the ultimate ruling. 

Kuegel was unavailable to provide any comment on the case or Tuesday’s ruling. 

The parties are expected to present the results of mediation during the next court date for the case on Oct. 5.

August 25, 2021 | 12:10 am

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