Tribune-Courier News Editor
An Aurora man’s case will be heard before a Marshall grand jury Thursday as he is facing possible manslaughter charges after a death in a July altercation.
Howard J. Baier, 39, of Aurora, struggled with Jimmy Lynn Filbeck, 51, also of Aurora, on July 24. When deputies from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department arrived at Filbeck’s home on Union Ridge Road after receiving calls of a disturbance, they found Baier dead.
Chief Deputy David Maddox said previously the two men did not appear to know each other.
Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars said toxicology results on Baier indicated he was intoxicated, but would not elaborate further. He also indicated Baier was riding on a horse and stopped due to problems with equipment.
Byars said Filbeck was charged at the time of the incident with failure to register as a sex offender at his current residence. He added previous complaints of Filbeck’s non-compliance were forwarded to the Kentucky Division of Probation and Parole as his department does not normally handle registration compliance issues.
“Because we verified his address at the time of the incident, we were able to determine he was out of compliance and charge him with the offense,” Byars said.
Baier’s sister Theresa Jones said conflict was not in her brother’s nature. She added other than a DUI and some traffic offenses, he did not have a criminal record. Baier worked as a plumber at Murray State University.
“It doesn’t sound like something Joe would do to just attack someone,” Jones said.
Filbeck’s attorney David Bundrick said the facts of the case will support his client.
“We believe this is a clear-cut case of self defense,” Bundrick said. “The only people who really know what happened are the deceased and Mr. Filbeck.”
Jones said she hopes for an indictment, and hopes her brother’s death is not considered a case of self defense.
After the fight, Byars referred to the Castle Doctrine, which under KRS.503.080, gives property owners the right to defend themselves and their property in Kentucky as a possible reason for the fight.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Mark Blankenship will present the facts of the case to the grand jury. He said the Castle Doctrine allows a resident to use deadly force any time a resident finds an intruder in his or her home or attempting to gain access into a home. In the case of a simple trespassing, he said a resident may call police and have the person excluded from the property, but does not have the right to use deadly force.
Blankenship said Baier’s saddle may have slipped from the horse and crossed into Filbeck’s front lawn. Baier may have attempted to remount the saddle when Filbeck walked out to confront the source of a commotion. At that point, an argument began.
According to a Sheriff’s Department press release, the final autopsy report concluded the asphyxiation and strangulation were consistent with statements given by Filbeck on the evening of the incident. The investigation showed that Filbeck may have attempted to restrain Baier until deputies arrived at the scene.
“Filbeck said Baier came at him to fight. If that’s true, at that point, Filbeck had a right to defend himself,” Blankenship said. “A person has a right to use deadly force if he believes deadly force will be used against him, like if a person was armed with a knife. What we have here is hand-to-hand combat, and normally, deadly force is not available. Hand strikes, depending on the strength and location, could be considered deadly.”
Jones said on the night of the fight, Baier was intoxicated to the point where he could barely stand.
Blankenship said he plans to consult with the Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s office to determine if Baier’s intoxication was severe enough to keep him from being an effective combatant against Filbeck.
“We hope what the grand jury will see is a man who did what was needed to defend his home and family,” Bundrick said.
While the Sheriff’s Department has not charged Filbeck with any offense related to the incident, the matter will be presented to a Marshall County grand jury on Sept. 13 to consider charges of second degree manslaughter. The grand jury will also consider an indictment against Filbeck for failure to register at his present address on Union Ridge Road as a sex offender.
“We’re going to take a thorough look and present the facts to the grand jury,” Blankenship said. “We’re going to let them take the lead if further action need be taken. Some grand juries want additional evidence, so we may need to collect more and present it at their session next month before they indict or find no true bill.”