Logansport, Ind. A judge entered not guilty pleas Friday for a Kansas parolee charged with murder and criminal confinement with a deadly weapon in the slaying of a 16-year-old female co-worker who had stopped to help him when he had car trouble.
Danny R. Rouse, 51, who was paroled in March after serving 26 years in prison for the murder of a 5-year-old Kansas boy, is accused in the slaying of Stephanie Wagner, whose body was found in a Cass County farm field Wednesday.
Cass Superior Court Judge Rick Maughmer entered the not guilty pleas on Rouse's behalf and appointed a public defender to represent him. The judge also scheduled a Dec. 4 pretrial hearing for Rouse, who was being held without bond in the Cass County Jail.
The murder charge carries a penalty ranging from 45 to 65 years in the prison.
Prosecutor Kevin Enyeart said Friday in a statement that he had not decided if he'll seek the death penalty against Rouse, adding that he "will not rush to a decision."
Police took Rouse in for questioning Wednesday after he arrived for work at the Indian Head Restaurant in Winamac, where he worked as a dishwasher and Wagner was a waitress. The two had left about 10:30 p.m. EST Tuesday from the restaurant located about 15 miles north of where Wagner's body was found.
Rouse told Cass County deputies he was driving along a highway when he had car trouble and pulled over. When Wagner stopped to help, Rouse told police that "a feeling came over him," Cass County Sheriff's Detective Tom Wallace testified at a probable cause hearing Thursday.
Wagner's body was found Wednesday night less than a mile from where police discovered her abandoned car in her hometown of Royal Center, about 50 miles southwest of South Bend. Rouse told them where they would find her body.
Wallace said Rouse admitted strangling Wagner and then stabbing her. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday.
Rouse was living in Monterey with his brother's family after leaving prison in Kansas last March for the 1979 murder of Jason Learst. Rouse was convicted of cutting the boy's throat and stabbing the child's mother, Kathryn Crowley, at a Wichita apartment after Crowley rejected his sexual advances. The mother survived by collapsing and pretending to be dead.
Rouse pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but a jury convicted him of first-degree murder.
Under laws mandating that states allow residency to parolees and probationers from other states, Indiana has taken 3,595 convicts from elsewhere and placed 4,532 offenders in other states, the Indiana Department of Correction said.