Man found guilty in Fowler murder case

A jury found Rhett Martin guilt of all four charges on Thursday.

Posted: Oct 22, 2020 7:10 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2020 10:10 PM

FOWLER, Ind. (WLFI) – After four days of hearing testimony from dozens of witnesses, a jury has found Rhett Martin guilty of all four of his charges:

Count 1- Murder
Count 2- Murder, while committing burglary
Count 3- Murder, while committing robbery
Count 4- Arson

Martin was found guilty for the death of Daniel Riegle. Riegle was found shot to death inside his Fowler home after it had been set on fire intentionally. Martin’s cousin, Duane Scott Muse, is also charged in the crime. Muse’s case is still pending.

Testimony on Thursday, day four of the trial, began with Riegle’s son, Marcus, taking the stand. Marcus confirmed testimony from the first day of the trial, that his father was a man of routine. He would wake up between 2 and 3am and would leave for work promptly at 3:30am. He said he always grabbed a granola bar as a snack while at work. In testimony from earlier in the week, Det. Duane Datzman with ISP photographed a charred granola bar that had been found in Riegle’s pocket.

Marcus confirmed that his father had recently taken up metal detecting as a hobby. Benton County Prosecutor, John Wright, showed Marcus photos of metal detecting equipment that had been found inside Martin and Muse’s home. He confirmed that it all belonged to his father. He had even printed out the purchase records from the Amazon account they shared, showing Dan had bought all the equipment items found at Martin and Muse’s home.

He said he found out about the house fire as he was pulling into his work. He said he instantly drove to Fowler. He said his father’s car was not in front of the house parked where it always was when he was home. He said he found it two blocks away and notified the police.

Next, Wright called Sergeant Alba Whited to the stand. Sgt. Whited is a digital evidence examiner with the Indiana State Police. He examined several electronic devices from this case. First he talked about a Toshiba laptop found at Muse and Martin’s home. After making a copy of the hard drive, he found that the laptop was registered to Martin, but had previously been registered to Dan. Riegle’s email was also written in black marker below the keyboard.

A document search found credit card statements, a driver’s license photo and an income spreadsheet that belonged to Riegle. The username was changed from “Daniel” to “Rhett Martin” in April of 2019. The name of the computer changed from “Daniel-PC” to “DarkAngel57” in May of 2019. Whited said the laptop was last shut down on December 1st, 2019 and the password was changed.

He analyzed an internal hard drive often found in a computer tower. Daniel Riegle’s name was programed into the hard drive. He looked at two small cameras, but they had no internal data or storage on them. He also looked at two wireless surveillance cameras and a video receiver that had been taken from Martin and Muse's home. No videos or data were found on these cameras, but he did find a 16GB memory card in the receiver. The last video on the memory card was from November 24th, 2019.

ISP Detective Gregg Edwards testified next. He works with the department’s electronic surveillance unit with a focus in cell phone record analysis. He looked at cell phone records from Daniel Riegle, Rhett Martin, Scott Muse and Nick Riegle, who is another one of Dan’s children.

Ultimately, he found that from December 4th through the 6th, neither Martin nor Muse had any outgoing activity from their cell phones. From the 3rd to the 7th, Martin’s phone had no data activity. From November 29th through the afternoon of December 6th, Muse's phone had no data activity. Martin changed the physical device of his phone on December 7th. Martin had also been texting Sonya Riegle, his on-again-off-again lover, constantly from June to December. However, after the 6th, he hardly contacted her at all.
Det. Edwards confirmed for the defense that they did not request records from Facebook about any communication he may have been doing over the social media site.

After a midmorning break, Rafael Perez took the stand. He is a forensic firearms examiner with the Indiana State Police Laboratory. He examined the firearms linked to this case. The jury learned in previous testimony that a bullet jacket and lead fragment had been found inside Riegle’s body. After test firing the Glock found inside the box truck Martin was trying to sell to his friend in Warren County, he compared the test round to the fragments provided as evidence.

He determined that the bullet that killed Daniel Riegle had been fired from the Glock. He said he also tested a .45 caliber 1911 pistol and a .38 Derringer found among Muse’s things in his bedroom. He said the fragments had no markings for a .45 and that the size difference in caliber could rule out the 1911 pistol. And while the caliber was the same for the Derringer, Perez said that Derringers leave left-twisting grooves and the fragment from Riegle had right-twisting grooves. This ruled out the Derringer as the murder weapon. There had been three magazines found with the Glock. He confirmed that the rounds inside the magazines matched the bullet found as evidence.

The jury was then dismissed for lunch. Defense attorney Mike Troemel had issued a subpoena for Scott Muse to testify in the case. Muse’s attorney and her client came before the court. After taking the oath, he told Judge Rex Kepner that he was invoking is 5th Amendment right to remain silent. Troemel had wanted this declaration to happen before the jury, but Judge Kepner denied that motion. Knowing Muse would plea the 5th, his next move was to bring Det. Edwards to testify again. He said during several interviews with Edwards, Muse gave contradictory statements. And he argued that because of due process, the defense should be allowed to questions Edwards, but not the state.

Judge Kepner ultimately decided that if Edwards was brought to the stand, then the state would have to be allowed to ask questions. And if the defense wanted to play a portion of the interview tapes with Muse, then the state would have the right to play as much of the tapes as they wanted. Ultimately, Troemel decided not to call Edwards. After the lunch break and with the jury back in the courtroom, both the state and defense rested their cases. Martin did not give testimony on his own behalf, which is his right not to do.

Judge Kepner then allowed for closing arguments. Wright began his argument for the prosecution. He said this was a brutal murder that was planned and executed out of malice. He reminded the jury that this was done in a team effort, and that any evidence that pointed to Martin’s guilt, also pointed to Muse’s guilt.

He began by reminding the jury of the security camera footage showing a silver car driving in a certain area of town multiple nights leading up to the murder. It is known that Dan Riegle was a man of routine and he argued it was just a matter of figuring out that routine for Martin and Muse. He said on December 2nd, the silver car is seen driving around the area of Riegle’s home around 4:30am, which Wright said was too late. On December 3rd, the car is seen around 2:25am, which was too early. And on December 5th, it is seen driving around 3:15am, which is right when Riegle would be getting ready to leave. And on December 6th, he is killed. 

He said the car is seen driving in the area on the morning of the 6th around 3:30am. Wright said this is when they got out, entered Riegle’s home and someone, most likely Martin in Wright’s arguments, pulled the trigger. He said an hour later, the car is seen driving in the area again. And by 4:45am, a neighbor reported smelling something smoldering.

He reminded the jury that Riegle’s metal detecting equipment was found sitting in the open inside Muse and Martin’s home. It was located in the living room where Martin slept on the couch. Wright argued that nothing else of worth was stolen from Martin’s home, only the metal detecting equipment. He said that made it clear this was not an act of burglary for money that had gone wrong. He said Martin planned to kill Riegle, went to his home, killed him, took the equipment as a bonus and then returned later to destroy the evidence with fire.

Other incriminating evidence was found around where Martin slept at the home located on West 4th Street. Riegle’s computer equipment was found under the couch. A pair of brass knuckles and a collapsible batton were found on the ground. A board with door knobs and door picks were found near each other in what Wright called a “burglary practice kit.” A box of ammunition that matched the cartridges found with the Glock murder weapon was found in a waste bin near his couch.

Wright argued that one of the most important things that distinguishes Martin from Muse in this case is that Martin had motive and connection. Wright said it is clear Martin was obsessed with Sonya Riegle and winning her back from her husband, Nick Riegle. Wright argued that Martin had fallen on hard times. Before, he had a good job and was living in Nick’s home, having an affair with his wife. But then she kicked him out, he lost his job, he was sleeping on a couch in a home that had the water utility cut off, and was depressed, angry and looking for a way out.

He said Martin had reason to hate Dan. The incident where Sonya found cameras in her bathroom Dan admitted to planting upset her greatly, and caused her to have trust issues with men, including Martin. Martin claimed that Nick owed him $10,000 and Wright said Martin was not happy that Nick had moved back in with Sonya. He said Martin tried to scare Nick off by stalking him and texting Sonya about it, but that didn’t work. And during an interview with police five days after the crime, detectives testified that Martin called Dan a “piece of sh*t.”

Wright said Martin injected himself into the Riegle family. He said Martin lied to police about seeing Dan Riegle and other members of the Riegle family around town. He said we know these are lies because Sonya testified that Martin would regularly text her when he saw the family around town. Wright said the key thing here is that Muse’s only connection to Dan Riegle was Martin himself.

He said Martin lied to police about other important things, like about guns. Martin said he had gotten rid of his 9mm Glock, but it was found in the box truck he had tried to sell to his friend, Chad Ray. Wright said Martin was clearly trying to get rid of the murder weapon by selling the box truck at a cheap price to someone in a different county. Wright said Martin told police he didn’t have much knowledge about guns, but argued this was a blatant lie. As a former military soldier responsible for clearing homes after bombing raids, Martin would definitely have knowledge about guns. Wright said Martin even proved it in text messages he sent to Ray when trying to sell him his Minelli shotgun.

While trying to persuade Ray to buy the shotgun, he texted his friend that police had told him Riegle “was shot first” before the fire and that “police were talking like he was shot with a smaller caliber” than a shotgun. Lead Det. Brock Russell testified that no such information about the shooting or the caliber would be shared with anyone at that point in the investigation, least of all a person of interest.

Finally, Wright said Martin lied about knowing Dan Riegle’s name. It was made clear throughout the trial that Martin had extensive knowledge of who Dan was and his connection to people like Sonya and Nick. Yet at one point during an interview with police, he claimed to forget Dan’s name.

Wright pointed to the trash collection and the reaction Martin had. Ray testified that Martin was clearly nervous and freaked out that their trash had been confiscated. It was clear that Muse also had a nervous reaction and even went so far as to track down the trash man to ask why their trash had been taken.

Wright said there was a high level of skill involved in executing this murder. Dan had one single gunshot wound to his carotid artery on his neck. He said making a fatal shot like that with a pistol is not easy and is a shot someone who is ex-military would likely have training to make. He said there was skill in the pouring of the acetone on the body, setting the match and getting out of the house unscathed. Only someone with knowledge about fires would know how to manage such a situation. The Kentland volunteer fire Chief testified earlier this week that Martin had been a member of the department for about two years.

Wright finally discussed how a few possible discrepancies could be explained in the case. First off, only Martin’s DNA was found on the murder weapon. Wright argued that Muse had his own guns and that if he wanted to kill Dan Riegle, he wouldn’t need his cousin’s Glock. Det. Datzman had photographed a cartridge that matched one of Muse’s guns in the silver Dodge Avenger. Wright emphasized that it was found on the passenger side, meaning Muse was most likely riding along with whatever Martin was planning.

He argued Muse would have to be a criminal mastermind to plan and execute a murder on this scale by himself. He said Muse is clearly no mastermind considering his room was a mess. Martin described him as lazy, slow and with no initiative during an interview with police. Wright said the level of sophistication needed for Muse to do it alone is not possible.

Ultimately, Wright urged the jury to do as they would be instructed and look at all the evidence as a whole to make their decision. He argued there is only one reasonable conclusion to make, which is that Rhett Martin was involved, that he most likely pulled the trigger when compared to his cousin and that he is guilty of his charges.

Defense attorney Mike Troemel got his chance to respond. He began by reminding the jury that if there are ever two possible explanations, that they must take the side of the defendant and his innocence. He said he is not disputing that Riegle was shot to death, that the killer lit his home on fire or that a silver car was seen driving around the area of the home planning the murder.

He argued what he does question is that there was no way for police to confirm who was driving the car those nights. He said four police officers testified before the court that they had seen Scott Muse driving the silver car around town at various times. In Martin’s voluntary interview with police, he told them that Muse has access to his car and would drive it often. He argued there was a real possibility that Muse was the one driving the car in the security footage, planning to kill Riegle.

Troemel said he does not dispute that the Glock is the murder weapon, but he argued DNA testing became his smoking gun. There were multiple types of gloves taken and submitted for testing, including latex gloves and fingers from fabric gloves. All of the glove samples tested had Muse’s DNA on them and not Martin’s. He said of course Martin’s gun is going to have Martin’s DNA on it because he owned it. He argued anyone, even Muse, would know that if you want to not be connected to something through DNA, you wear gloves. Therefore, Muse could have worn gloves in the early morning hours of December 6th, gone to Riegle’s home to rob him for money and when things went wrong, he shot Riegle once using Martin’s Glock.

He said Muse had the perfect route to deflect blame towards his cousin. Troemel said if any member of the Riegle family was killed, it would automatically be pinned on Rhett Martin because of his soured connection with the family. And the fact that Muse could use Martin’s weapon to make it look like Martin shot the victim would be even more convenient. He said Muse could have stashed the gun in Martin’s box truck and walked away unknown. But when the trash was taken from the home, he knew he would be discovered, and that’s why he became so nervous that he tracked down the trash man to ask why they had taken their trash.

Why would Martin wait five days after the murder to dispose of the murder weapon? Asked Troemel. He said in any murder case, the murder weapon is destroyed as quickly as possible to avoid any connection being traced to the killer. He said it would not be smart of Martin to have the Glock in plain sight for so long if he was truly the murderer.

Troemel finished by reminding the jury that the burden of proof is solely on the state. He said to find his client probably guilty is not a good enough standard and that his high-stakes decision would affect the families involved for the rest of their lives.

Wright got the chance to make rebuttal remarks to Troemel’s arguments. He said it was Martin’s arrogance that made him not get rid of the murder weapon sooner. He said it was clear Martin thought he would get away with it because he turned off his cell phone for several days leading up to the murder, making it impossible to know his whereabouts. He said Martin didn’t even bring his phone with him while taking the box truck to Ray’s home in Warren County to also remain undetected.

Wright said he is not surprised that Muse was scared when the trash was taken because he was most likely guilty in this crime too. He reiterated that this was a team effort and both men were guilty. He asked, why would Martin lie to police about his gun knowledge and gun possession if he was innocent? Why would he downplay seeing and knowing Dan Riegle if he was not involved? Why would Muse murder and rob Riegle when he had just started a new job at the Dollar General? Wright said Martin even told police that Muse would have no idea where Riegle lived. He ended by saying this was a planned act of malice that Martin was clearly involved in.

The jury was given their final instructions and adjourned to the jury room to deliberate at 4:45pm. They took an hour and 15 minutes to deliberate and at 6pm, they informed Judge Kepner that they had come to a decision. The jury found Martin guilty of all four counts he was charged with. Martin remained stoic as the verdict was read. His family in the audience also remained solemn. Riegle also had family in the audience. Some sighed in relief, others started to cry and a few hugged.

The jury was then sent back to decide on if a firearm enhancement should be added. After half an hour of deliberation, they decided that it should be added to the sentence. Troemel said they will file an appeal of the decision, which starts a process that can be about a year long. Marcus Riegle said he and others in the family are happy by the decision. Martin’s sentencing hearing is currently set for November 19th. Muse's jury trial in this incident is currently set for November 9th.

Martin and Muse also have pending burglary and theft of firearm charges in Tippecanoe County. This is for an incident court documents say happened in October of 2019. Both have pretrial conference hearings set for October 30th in that case.

Original web story from December 6th incident.

Day one of trial.

Day two of trial.

Day three of trial.

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