Appeals court affirms murder conviction in drug deal gone bad

Rebecca Bibbs, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·3 min read

May 4—INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the felony murder and attempted murder sentences of one of two accomplices in the 2018 murder of a man during a shootout that was part of a marijuana deal gone wrong in Anderson.

According to the 13-page memorandum decision authored by Judge Elizabeth F. Travitas, Madison County Circuit Court 3 Judge Andrew Hopper did not abuse his discretion in sentencing when he considered Michael D. Wayne Fleming III was convicted of multiple counts and that there were multiple victims.

"Fleming committed a senseless act, taking a life, injuring another, and putting still others at risk, all for $550.00 worth of marijuana," the opinion concluded.

Last week, Hopper sentenced Fleming's accomplice, Orlando Sutton, 21, to 55 years in prison for murder and 30 years for attempted murder to be served consecutively. The sentences for the two men were identical.

On Aug. 18, 2018, Bryce Patterson, 19, of Fishers, and his cousin, Dorien Patterson, were summoned from Fortville to Anderson by his high school friend, Ryan Green, to assist with a flat tire. Patterson, however, was unaware that Green was preparing to sell a quarter pound of marijuana to Fleming and Sutton for $550.

According to the appeals opinion filed April 16, Fleming and Sutton asked to be taken to a nearby gas station so they could pull the cash needed for the transaction from an ATM.

"Surveillance footage from the gas station, however, appears to show Sutton and Fleming merely miming the actions necessary to withdraw cash from an ATM; neither actually withdrew any money," the opinion said.

The parties all went to a home on 12th Street where the exchange was supposed to be made. Fleming and Sutton exited Green's vehicle, disappeared behind a nearby house and returned a few minutes later. When they did, Bryce Patterson was in the driver's seat of the car, which also had as passengers, his cousin, Green's cousin, Michael Kincade, and Kincade's pregnant girlfriend, McKenzie Ford.

Kincade passed Fleming and Sutton a bag of marijuana out the window for inspection. After it was returned, Fleming and Sutton drew pistols and ordered the occupants of the car to "give me all you got," the opinion said.

Though Kincade tried to comply, Fleming and Sutton opened fire. Fleming fired five shots, one of which struck Patterson in the back of the head and another, which struck Kincade in the left arm.

Patterson was pronounced dead shortly thereafter at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital.

Fleming and Sutton fled the scene on foot, but Fleming turned himself in after an arrest warrant was issued. He was found guilty of the charges in a February 2020 jury trial, and a sentencing hearing followed a few weeks later.

Though Fleming, through his lawyer, argued the appeals court should reweigh the aggravating and mitigating factors that affected the sentencing, the appeals court said that case law does not extend that liberty.

The court, however, is authorized to perform an independent appellate review under the Indiana Constitution, the opinion continued.

"Our review of a sentence under Appellate Rule 7(B) is not an act of second guessing the trial court's sentence," the opinion said. That authority, the court said, is exercised only in "exceptional cases."

The appeals court said the burden was on Fleming to demonstrate that an advisory sentence was inappropriate.

"Fleming has not met his burden," the court said. "Accordingly, we cannot conclude that his sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of his offenses or his character."

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.