NAPPANEE — A man who admitted to killing Sgt. Butch Nine in 1988 is seeking clemency, and the Nappanee community is gathering signatures in opposition.
This is not the first time Michael Steele, 49, has requested a clemency hearing from the Indiana Department of Correction’s parole board. Charles Miller, one of the parole board members, said Steele has applied for clemency at least twice before.
Under Indiana law, a person serving a sentence at the Indiana Department of Correction can request clemency every two years.
Miller said the board will meet with Nine’s family at 8 a.m. to hear their testimony.
The hearing will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Indiana Government Center building in Indianapolis.
Steele pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder in 1989 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His earliest release date, according to the Department of Correction website, is May 8, 2043.
He was arrested Nov. 3, 1988, for fatally shooting Nine and attempting to shoot Patrolman Phillip Hochstetler. The two police officers had responded to Newcomer & Sons Jewelers, 107 S. Main St., where he had attempted to pick up an item he had paid for with a bad check.
Following a struggle, Steele shot Nine and exchanged gunfire with Hochstetler. The exchange ended when Hochstetler wounded Steele.
Nappanee Police Chief Julie Dijkstra said she will attend the hearing, as well as Nine’s wife, daughter and brother-in-law.
The Nappanee Police Department will present signed petitions requesting Steele remains in prison. The police department has been collecting signatures and are asking people stop by and sign the petitions. Anyone wanting to sign has until Wednesday afternoon to do so.
Dijkstra said Nine’s death not only affected his family or the police department, but the community as a whole.
“We pull together in times like this to denounce the violence and to hold the person responsible accountable,” she said. “Not just the police department or the prosecutor’s office, but the entire community, I think, need to pull together and make sure that he is held accountable.”
The community held one last public memorial service in Nine’s honor Nov. 3, after holding a memorial service every year for the last 25 years.