BOONE COUNTY, Ind. (WXIN) — An Indiana man in jail awaiting trial in the death of his wife has won the Republican primary for a seat on a township board.
Andrew Wilhoite, of Boone County, received 60 votes (21.74%) in the GOP race for the Clinton Township board. He is one of three winners in the primary race along with Bradley J. Smith (39.86%) and Michael Young (38.41%).
Unless Wilhoite is convicted of a felony or withdraws before November, voters in Boone County can expect to see his name on the ballot in the upcoming general election.
In March, Wilhoite was charged with murder in the death of his wife, Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite, who had been reported missing by friends on March 25. When police initially showed up at the Wilhoite home to investigate, Andrew Wilhoite told them they had gotten into a fight the night before and Nikki was probably at her sister’s, according to court documents.
Police said they found blood in the master bedroom and bathroom and learned Nikki Wilhoite, who had recently successfully undergone chemo treatment, had filed for divorce on March 17.
After being questioned by Indiana State Police, a probable cause affidavit shows, Andrew Wilhoite confessed to fatally striking Nikki in the face with a gallon-sized cement flower pot and then throwing her body in a nearby creek.
Still, because Wilhoite has only been charged with a felony, not convicted, there is nothing that legally prevents him from being on the ballot.
“It’s really important for people to understand in Indiana and all states in the United States is the fact that being accused of a crime is very different than being convicted of a crime,” said Elizabeth Bennion, Chancellor’s Professor of Political Science at Indiana University South Bend.
County GOP officials said Wilhoite met the deadline to declare his candidacy for a party nomination, in February, prior to his arrest. According to the State’s Election Division, a candidate who chooses to withdraw from the primary election would need to submit that request by Feb. 11, also prior to Wilhoite’s arrest.
According to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division, if nominated at the primary election, convention or by petition of nomination, a candidate has until noon on July 15 to submit their withdrawal.
Wilhoite’s name would remain on the ballot as long as he is not convicted of a felony, in which case, there would be an automatic disqualification, officials said.
According to court records, Wilhoite’s next hearing is scheduled for May 27 in Boone Superior Court and a jury trial has been preliminarily scheduled for Aug. 29.
By law in Indiana, a person charged with murder must be held without bond until trial, so if the date of his trial is moved back, no verdict is reached by November, and Wilhoite never filed a request to withdraw by the July deadline, he could win the general election if he receives enough votes, even while behind bars.