ASHLAND - Three of the four defendants accused of conspiring to commit murder at the Almond Tree Inn last month appeared in court this week.
Samuel Castle and Michael S. Watson, both 17 years old, appeared in juvenile court while 19-year-old Gregg A. Kuzawa II appeared in adult court via video conference.
Through his attorney, Terry Hitchman, Watson entered pleas of denial to each of the charges against him, including complicity to aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated burglary and complicity to attempted murder. The complaint also includes firearm specifications, to which Watson entered pleas of denial. Denial is the juvenile court equivalent of a not guilty plea in adult court.
Castle also faces the same charges but did not yet enter any pleas. He is being represented by attorney James Mayer.
Probable cause hearings have been set in both cases to determine whether the cases will be moved to adult court. Hearings are set for Aug. 12 for Watson and Aug. 21 for Castle.
The third juvenile defendant, 17-year old Tyler A. Morris (also known as Tyler A. Mullins) is scheduled to appear in court July 29. A probable cause hearing is likely to be scheduled in his case as well.
Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell has filed motions requesting that all three juvenile defendants be tried as adults.
As the only adult defendant, Kuzawa's case is being handled in adult court and is progressing more quickly. He was indicted on 13 charges July 12 and pleaded not guilty on all counts Friday.
The charges against him include two counts of complicity to aggravated murder, two counts of complicity to attempted aggravated murder, two counts of complicity to felonious assault, two counts of complicity to aggravated burglary, two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, one county of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and two counts of menacing by stalking.
Judge Ronald Forsthoefel tentatively scheduled Kuzawa's case for trial Oct. 15, though the judge said that date could be pushed back if the defendant waives his right to a speedy trial. Kuzawa's attorney, Bernard Davis, said his client is likely to file such a waiver.
If the case does proceed to trial as scheduled, the deadline for the parties to reach a negotiated plea agreement would be Oct. 1.
The prosecutor previously said the four suspects jointly planned to kill Timothy Maust and Elizabeth Bunnell after Maust and Bunnell failed to pay for $50 to $60 worth of methamphetamines from Morris.
Morris allegedly provided a .22 caliber Ruger pistol to Watson, who went to the Almond Tree Inn with Castle and Kuzawa. According to the prosecutor's account, the trio forced open to door to Maust and Bunnnell's room, and Waston opened fire. Maust was killed and Bunnell was shot twice.
Watson returned the firearm to Morris, who disassembled it and attempted to hide the pieces, Tunnell said.