ShareThis Page

Jury selection begins in Wheeler murder case

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jury selection began Monday in Indiana County for a 17-year-old Blairsville teen accused of intentionally setting fire to her parents' home, killing her adoptive father.

Opening statements in the murder trial of Codee Wheeler are expected today.

Wheeler, who was a student at Blairsville-Saltsburg High School, will be tried as an adult for homicide in connection with the March 21, 2007, fire that killed William Wheeler, a former Burrell Township supervisor. She faces a potential sentence of life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

William Wheeler, 57, was found dead inside his South Stewart Street home after the early morning blaze. The coroner ruled that he died of smoke inhalation.

State police fire marshal Tim Frew alleges that Codee Wheeler set the fire in the family room with kerosene that was stored in cans there.

Just before the fire, Codee Wheeler had returned home after running away for 10 days after a dispute with William and Susan Wheeler, her adoptive parents.

Codee Wheeler's grandmother, Darlene Viola, had turned in William Wheeler to Children and Youth Services for alleged abuse after she heard he had occasionally walked in on the teen as she used the bathroom, and had walked around in front of her in his underwear.

The agency found the abuse charges unfounded, but Codee Wheeler, then 16, ran away to a local hotel with the assistance of her biological mother, Georgianne Palmer.

Palmer of Homer City was charged with interference with the custody of children and is completing a probationary term for first-time offenders, according to court records. Her criminal record can later be expunged upon successful completion of probation.

Codee Wheeler's court-appointed attorney, Thomas Kauffman, has argued in previous court proceedings that the fire was accidental and may have been started by candles the family frequently burned in the family room.

Judge William Martin told prospective jurors during interviews yesterday that the trial is expected to last a week.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me