Trial of Fowler man accused of murder is underway in Benton County

This week will determine the destiny of a Fowler man accused of murder. Rhett Martin is accused of killing Dan Riegle in a robbery attempt, then setting his house on fire,

Posted: Oct 19, 2020 11:34 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2020 9:35 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- The trial for one of two men charged with murder is underway in Fowler.

Rhett Martin is accused of killing Dan Riegle while attempting to rob him and setting his house on fire last December.

Benton County Prosecuting Attorney John Wright representing the State of Indiana. Martin is pleading not guilty but Monday's trial was focused on the state presenting evidence to prove that he is.

Wright started by explaining what may have caused Martin to want to kill Riegle. According to their investigation, they learned Martin was in love with Riegle's daughter-in-law Sonia. They had an on and off-again relationship.

Riegle's son Nick was married to Sonia at the time. During their marriage, Riegle moved in with Nick and Sonia and lived there for several months. He was later kicked out after Sonia found a hidden camera in the bathroom she and her daughter use. Reigle admitted the camera was his.

Not long after this, Martin reached out to Sonia, which again sparked their on-going affair. Nick was "fed up" and ended up leaving the home for some time and that's when Martin moved in. 

In Wright's statement to the jurors and judge, he mentioned that during this period, life was good for Martin but it didn't last long. Around Christmas time 2018, Sonia kicked out Martin and got back together with Nick.

Martin eventually moved in with his cousin Duane Scott Muse, who is also being charged with murder in this case.

According to the state's investigation, Martin didn't like that and began harassing Nick frequently. At some point, Martin's frustrations turned to Nick's father Dan Riegle. Attorney Wright said Martin knew that Riegle was never prosecuted for his actions involving the camera in the bathroom and Martin wanted Reigle to pay.

After Attorney Wright shared why the state believes Riegle was a target in this incident, he brought in ten witnesses to share what they knew about Riegle and/or the incident.

The first witness was a firefighter on the Fowler Fire Department. According to his statement, they were the first to find Riegle's body. They were called to his home after reports of it being on fire. The firefighter testified about what he experienced as they entered the home looking to rescue anyone inside. The firefighter said he found Riegle's body in the living room near the front door. When they found his body and discovered the gunshot wound, they immediately got the police involved to start an investigation.

Riegle's coworker and boss were also asked to testify. They both shared how Riegle was a man of routine. He would leave the house at the same time every morning, bring the same snacks to work, and would go to his mom's house every day for lunch. The day he didn't show up for work was concerning to them. 

The county coroner and doctor who helped conduct his autopsy were also asked to speak as witnesses. They both went into great detail using images of Riegle's body to explain why it brought them to the conclusion that his death was a homicide.

An arson investigator with the state of Indiana also testified and used photos to went into detail on why he determined the fire was caused intentionally.

Neighbors and nearby residents also shared the unusual things they experienced the morning of Riegle's death. One neighbor recalled smelling something smoldering as she stepped outside her house to head to work. She didn't know it was Riegle's house on fire until the incident became public.

Another neighbor noticed that Riegle's car was missing that morning. He said Riegle always parked his car in the same spot and in the same direction every day.

Another resident living not far from Riegle noticed an unfamiliar vehicle parked across the street from his driveway. He remembered having to adjust the way he typically pulled out of his driveway in order to avoid hitting the car. Investigators discovered it was Riegle's car and they believe one of the suspects in the case are responsible for bringing it to that location.

The last witness was an Indiana State Police detective who used his time of testimony to describe what was happening in the surveillance footage they obtained from the Good to Go gas station, a resident's home, and the Benton County Sheriff's Office. The footage showed a car that looked like Riegle's vehicle traveling around the same time his house was caught on fire. 

Monday marks day one of the trial. More witnesses are expected to share accounts throughout the week.

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