Judge sets bail at $2M for Fernbach

Wanda English Burnett

Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel petitioned the court to set the bail for James L. Fernbach Jr., 32, of Batesville, at two million dollars. He said investigators have not yet determined a motive for Fernbach shooting two people outside a Batesville store on Saturday, April 4 and believes there is “danger not only to the individuals who were shot, but the community at large,” unless a high bail is imposed.

There was a high sense of security at an Initial Hearing that took place in Ripley County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7 with Judge Carl Taul presiding. Outside the courtroom, officers, along with Bailiff Dave Schmaltz were searching personal items such as purses, brief cases, etc. They were also using an electronic wand making sure no one was carrying any type of weapon on their person before entering the courtroom. There were approximately 15 people who attended the hearing that would establish bail for Fernbach, and set dates for future court proceedings.

Judge Taul read the rules of the court proceedings to Fernbach asking him for comment on the bail that was set.

Fernbach replied, “I’m glad nobody’s dead, killed or hurt...It wasn’t something I planned.”
The judge told him he was asking him if he understood the bail to which he replied, “I’m fine with that, I couldn’t post that anyway.”

Judge Taul explained to Fernbach that he could be free by posting 10% of the $2M, which would be a $200,000 cash bond.

One of the alleged victims, Benjamin Dick, 26, of Batesville, was in the courtroom with a bandaged hand, from injuries sustained in the shooting incident. He later told the media he wished there was no bail set. Also in the courtroom were family members of the other alleged victim, Phillip Cruser, 56, of Westport, who sustained a gunshot wound in the head. He remains in an Indianapolis hospital according to family members.

Also in the courtroom were family members of Fernbach who had no comment to the media.
The judge asked Fernbach if he had financial means to pay for an attorney. He indicated he did not. Judge Taul found Fernbach to be indigent and appointed Mark Jones as his counsel.

A standard plea of not guilty was entered on Fernbach’s behalf. An Omnibus Hearing was set for June 18 with five days set aside for a trial by jury beginning October 26 at 9 a.m.

Prosecutor Ric Hertel said he couldn’t recall having such a high bail set for this particular charge, Attempted Murder. But, he was pleased with the judge’s decision in the matter. He believes Fernbach is a “dangerous” person.

If convicted, Fernbach could serve 100 years for the offenses.

Fernbach was arrested just minutes after the shootings occurred after he called 911 from his home saying he had shot someone.