Indiana candidate accused of killing wife wins GOP primary from jail

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An Indiana man who is accused of killing his cancer-stricken wife as she was seeking a divorce won his GOP primary this week from jail and will be on the November ballot – if he has not been convicted.

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Andrew Wilhoite was charged in March in connection to the killing of his wife, Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite, 41. She had completed her last chemotherapy treatment for her breast cancer diagnosis and was seeking a divorce after she found out her husband had been having an affair, according to the Lebanon Reporter.

When the Lebanon, Ind., couple got into a domestic dispute in late March, Wilhoite “allegedly struck her in the head” with a cement, gallon-size flower pot, placed her in his car and dumped her body in a nearby creek, according to the Indiana State Police.

Despite the circumstances surrounding his wife’s killing, Wilhoite – who initially lied about her whereabouts but later admitted to killing her after she attacked him, according to prosecutors – won his Republican primary on Tuesday for one of the three open seats on the Clinton Township Board.

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Election data shows that Wilhoite received 60 votes, while two other Republican candidates for the three seats received 106 and 100 votes, respectively. No Democratic candidates were on the ballot in the Clinton Township Board primary, but candidates in other parties could still make the ballot by November, reported WXIN.

The 40-year-old GOP candidate is charged with first-degree murder and is being held in Boone County Jail without bond. If he’s convicted, he could face up to life in prison, or even the death penalty, according to state law.

Wilhoite, whose jury trial is scheduled to begin in late August, will be removed from the ballot if he is convicted of a felony before the Nov. 8 general election. The Indiana man also has the option of removing his name from him from the ballot before July 15, but has not yet done so as of early Friday, records show.

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Wilhoite’s attorneys are not listed in court records. The Clinton Township Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

Andrew Wilhoite was a farmer who raised livestock in Lebanon, located about 28 miles outside of Indianapolis, according to the Lebanon Reporter. I have helped run the family business, Wilhoite Family Farms. Nikki Wilhoite worked in dentistry, according to her obituary.

On March 18, Nikki Wilhoite submitted a petition for legal separation in Boone County Circuit Court after she found out that her husband had allegedly cheated on her, according to court records. That same week, she documented how she had finished up her last round of chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, with which she was diagnosed the previous fall.

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On the day she formally sought a split from him, Andrew Wilhoite posted a photo of his smiling wife of 12 years, expressing his support for her as she went through cancer treatment.

“This lady just finished her last round of chemo today,” Wilhoite wrote in a Facebook post that has since been made private. “Very proud of you.”

The unraveling marriage became more tenuous about a week later. The farmer told authorities that his wife initially attacked him on March 24 and yelled at him to leave the house, but that he ended up pushing her out the front door. Wilhoite said that as she charged at him around 10 pm, he reached for a cement flowerpot in the dirt and struck her with it, according to her affidavit.

“Andrew was asked if Elizabeth was still breathing, and Andrew stated he didn’t know because he didn’t check,” police wrote.

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Not knowing what to do, Wilhoite placed his unconscious wife in his truck and drove to Ross Ditch, wrote Indiana State Police Detective Adam Buell. From there, “Andrew described that he drove to a bridge over the creek and threw her over the wall and into the creek,” according to police. He disposed of the broken planter along the highway as he was making a corn delivery, the affidavit says.

After Nikki Wilhoite failed to report to work, detectives were called to investigate her whereabouts on March 25.

“An exhaustive search of the area with K-9 bloodhounds and deputies continued for several hours and we were not able to locate Nikki,” the Boone County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release of the initial efforts. “The investigation eventually evolved into a possible homicide investigation.” Since Andrew Wilhoite’s mother is a county councilwoman, the sheriff’s office said it asked the state police to run the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest.

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Authorities found traces of blood in the couple’s bedroom, and Wilhoite acknowledged that they had been fighting about his extramarital affair. But the farmer initially told detectives that he had slept on her couch and did not see her by the time he left for work the next morning, according to authorities.

When detectives continued to question him and relatives around the farm, the GOP candidate eventually asked to speak to an attorney, WTHR reported. It was at that point that Wilhoite changed his account of the events of her, acknowledging he had hit her in the head with the planter and dumped her body in the creek. At around 3 am on March 26, the Indiana State Police said they had recovered Nikki Wilhoite’s body from her “partially submerged in approximately three feet of water” after Andrew Wilhoite told them where to find her.

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“All signs point to that she died at home,” Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood said in March. “Nothing indicates that she drowned.”

The coroner later confirmed that she died from the blow to the head.

The news has rocked the rural community in recent months. Nikki Wilhoite’s obituary for her lists her spouse for her not as her husband for her but as the “father of her children for her.” Neighbor Laura Vaughn told WXIN in March that if Andrew Wilhoite is guilty, then “he should pay severely for what he did to his wife and mother of his children from him.”

“How can you do that to the mother of your children?” she asked.

Even though Wilhoite faces the murder charge, that did not stop his candidacy for the township board. He still has a right to be on the ballot unless he’s convicted, Brad King, co-director of the bipartisan Indiana Election Division, told the Tribune-Star.

“There is no legal reason he can’t be a candidate,” King said. “Under our system you are innocent until you are proven guilty. If a person is convicted of a felony, then they are no longer eligible to be a candidate and are ineligible to hold office.”

Boone County Republican Chairwoman Debbie Ottinger told the outlet that she cannot remember a time when an incarcerated candidate has won a primary.

“Our hope is that he asks to be removed from the ballot and we can just replace him,” she said, “but I don’t know if anyone has talked to him about that.”

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