Attorney: Indiana coach charged in 1972 murder of St. Clair County baby is innocent

News-DemocratSeptember 14, 2013 

— The defense attorney for a man accused of the four-decades-old murder of a 1-year-old boy in St. Clair County said the suspect will prove his innocence.

Police arrested Gary Allyn Warwick, 62, of Portage, Ind., on Friday at an Indiana steakhouse. The day before he was charged with the beating death of 1-year-old Joseph Henry Abernathy III, of St. Clair County. The child, whose family resided outside East St. Louis at the time, died Dec. 30, 1972.

Warwick was taken into custody without incident by the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force and is in an Indiana jail on $5 million bail, awaiting extradition. A court hearing is scheduled for Monday.

In the criminal complaint filed in St. Clair County on Thursday, prosecutors allege that Warwick "struck and beat" Abernathy "knowing that such acts created a strong probability of death."

Belleville attorney Clyde Kuehn, who was an assistant state's attorney in 1972, signed the latest criminal complaint as prosecutor. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Belleville attorney James Gomric Jr. is representing Warwick.

"Mr. Warwick and I have known for more than a month that charges might be refiled in this case. We expressed to the state's attorney personally his willingness to self-surrender so that he could prove his innocence," Gomric said.

He added: "Warwick lived in the same city for decades with his wife, children and grandchildren. He did not flee even though he knew charges were possible. The setting of a $5 million bail is inappropriate in this case."

Gomric declined to comment on the details of the case.

"I will not comment on the particulars of the case in that, as opposed to the prosecution, the defense will try the case in the courts rather than the media," Gomric said.

Warwick went to court on murder charges in 1973 in St. Clair County, Kelly said, but the charges were dismissed without any explanation.

According to Warwick's biography on the Purdue University North Central website, he's an assistant coach with 25 years experience, and he helped start the Indiana Raiders girls traveling softball program, where he is a full-time coach. He has a wife, two married daughters and three grandchildren, according to the biography.

Baby Joey's death became a cold case, until his family started a petition on Change.org and made a YouTube video called "Justice for Joey" to reopen the case.

It convinced St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson to investigate. U.S. Marshals arrested Warwick on Thursday around 5 p.m. at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Indiana.

Kelly, according to a written statement, said the 1973 sentencing guidelines, which would send Warwick to jail for up to 300 years if he is convicted.

Warwick lived in the same home as baby Joey but was not related to him, St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said.

Watson asked that the cold case's file be brought to him and after examining it said, "I saw too many holes in it, and I thought, 'We can do something with this.'"

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