Meece Trial Begins

By: Tamara Evans
By: Tamara Evans

On February 26, 1993, residents in Columbia were shocked when a local veterinarian, Joseph Wellnitz, his wife, Beth, and son, Dennis were all murdered in their home.

For nearly ten years, police continued to search for the person responsible.

A break finally came in 2003, and an Adair County grand jury returned an indictment against the victim's daughter Margaret Wellnitz Appleton and William Henry Meece.

To the Columbia community, the arrests were a small sign of closure to the tragic murders.

However, the case didn't stop there.

Meece was charged with three counts of murder, burglary in the first degree, and robbery in the first while Appleton was held on complicity to robbery and complicity to murder.

Appleton had been an early suspect in the case because she and her brother were heirs to the family holdings and an insurance policy worth more than half-a million dollars.

In March of 2003, both Appleton and Meece pleaded innocent to the charges.

In November of 2004 the murder trial was set to begin in Adair County but was postponed when Meece pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Appleton.

A month later he recanted his plea.

Margaret Appleton took the stand in January of 2005 and pleaded guilty to three counts of complicity to murder for the death of her family members.

Appleton was sentenced to life but, like Meece, she recanted her plea this previous July, nearly a year later, saying she had no knowledge of the murders until after they occurred.

She testified that she was on medication when she initially pleaded guilty and only said what she did to receive a plea deal.

Jury selection has begun in Bowling Green for William Meece's trial and Columbia residents are hoping this finally means a closure to this unforgettable murder.

Potential jurors are each being individually questioned rather than with a group due to the severity of this case.

Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Wright says he will seek the death penalty against Meece.

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