An Indiana man charged with murder in the death of his wife, who had cancer and recently filed for a divorce, won a local Republican primary election while behind bars.
Andrew Wilhoite, 40, of Lebanon, is charged with felony murder, accused of killing his wife Elizabeth “Nikki” Wilhoite, 41, in March.
He allegedly hit her in the head with a blunt object and dumped her body at a nearby creek in March, Indiana State Police said.
An autopsy by the Boone County Coroner’s Office determined the manner of death to be homicide.
Wilhoite, who is being held in Boone County jail without bond, advanced Tuesday in the GOP primary election for one of three open seats on the Clinton Township Board.
Primary election results show he received 60 out of a total 276 votes cast for Republican candidates, or a 22 percent vote, in the race. The other two GOP candidates in the race received 110 and 106 votes respectively. There were only three candidates running for the three seats.
Despite the charges against him, Wilhoite is legally allowed to run.
According to Indiana law, a person is disqualified from being a candidate for elected office if convicted at a jury or bench trial or in a guilty plea hearing.
“The fundamental principle is that under our legal system, every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. At this point, there’s been no plea of guilty or conviction by a judge or a jury,” Brad King, co-director of the Indiana Election Division, told NBC News on Wilhoite’s primary election.
“So there’s nothing in the election law that prohibits a person who’s been accused from continuing to be a candidate and whether they’ve been indicted or arrested, imprisoned, whatever the status might be, they remain eligible until or unless they receive a felony conviction.”
King noted that a candidate can withdraw for any reason before July the 15th in this election.
Wilhoite’s pretrial conference is slated for May 27 and a jury trial is scheduled for August. If he makes it through without a conviction, he’ll appear on the November ballot. If convicted, he’ll be disqualified.
An attorney for Wilhoite did not immediately respond to a request for comment on if he plans to withdraw his candidacy.
Nikki Wilhoite was reported missing on March 25 after she failed to report to work.
She had filed from divorce from Wilhoite — with whom she shares children — on March 17, just one week prior to her death, court records show.
A friend of Nikki Wilhoite told NBC affiliate WTHR of Indianapolis that she had just finished her last chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer before she was killed.
Court documents viewed by WTHR said that Wilhoite at first allegedly lied to detectives about what happened to his wife. He later told investigators that he and his wife were fighting outside of the house when he hit her in the head with a flower pot, then drove her body to the creek, WTHR reports the documents said.
Her body was found partially submerged in the creek a few miles from her residence in the early hours of March 26, Indiana State Police said in a news release.