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July 16, 2020

5/27/2020 2:12:00 PM
Marantos charged in Kirby death
Missing-persons case evolved into intensive murder investigation
Jennings County Sheriff’s Office personnel, aided by Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police, the Department of Natural Resources, Jennings County Search and Rescue, Jennings County Swift Water Rescue and the Indiana National Guard, spent days searching the area of Country Squires Lakes in hopes of finding resident Brian Kirby, who was reported missing by family members Saturday, March 28.– Satellite image from Google Maps
+ click to enlarge
Jennings County Sheriff’s Office personnel, aided by Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police, the Department of Natural Resources, Jennings County Search and Rescue, Jennings County Swift Water Rescue and the Indiana National Guard, spent days searching the area of Country Squires Lakes in hopes of finding resident Brian Kirby, who was reported missing by family members Saturday, March 28.
– Satellite image from Google Maps
Phyllis McLaughlin and Barb King

Days after a Country Squire Lakes man was reported missing by his family, a search-and-recovery mission to find Brian Kirby, 52, evolved into a full-fledged murder investigation.

The result: Alan Joseph Marantos, 34, of North Vernon, was charged Thursday with Kirby's murder and numerous other
charges, some resulting from an investigation into an unrelated robbery case in Jackson County, which occurred around the time Kirby disappeared.

Marantos remains in Jackson County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest April 2 on robbery charges. He is being held without bail; he is to appear in Jennings County Circuit Court at 8:30 a.m. Friday, June 5.

Jennings County Prosecutor Brian Belding told the PD&S Friday that investigators believe Marantos killed Kirby and dismembered his body.

In an interview Tuesday, Jennings County Sheriff Kenny Freeman and Detective Sgt. Jeff Jones, who led the investigation, said Marantos allegedly attempted to use fire to destroy Kirby's remains, which were found scattered in different locations.

As a result of his actions, and the alleged robbery in Jackson County, Marantos also faces several other felony charges: robbery, a Level 2 felony; aggravated battery, a Level 3 felony; abuse of a corpse, obstruction of justice and possession of methamphetamine, all Level 6 felonies; and misdemeanor charges of intimidation, resisting law enforcement and leaving the scene of a crash, according to a news release Thursday from the Indiana State Police Versailles District.

"This is not a typical case," Belding said. He said many of the details had been withheld from the public until he could sit down with Kirby's family to discuss the charges he had filed against Marantos.

"The allegation is awful, and my heart goes out to the Kirby family and their friends," Belding said.

In Tuesday's interview, Freeman and Jones both expressed sympathy for the family, as well, when they realized it was no longer a missing-persons case.

"I wish, for the family, that this never happened," Freeman said. "You want [Kirby] to show up, but that's not the way it happened."

He said Kirby's family has been kept informed throughout the investigation. "They deserve that."

Still, because the case remains under investigation, he and Jones remained cautious to avoid going into too much detail ahead of the trial.

But, Jones said, "as far as I can recall, this was the largest search operation in Jennings County, ever."

From missing to murdered

On the Saturday Kirby was reported missing, Jones said Sgt. Mike Mowery, who took the report, and Deputy Ian McPherson began the search at Country Squires Lakes, where Kirby had last been seen on Primshire Court.

Along with family members, the men drove along possible routes where Kirby may have headed, but found no sign of him.

The next day, the search scaled up, with the addition of the Jennings County Search and Rescue Unit, also known as The Posse.

Using a map of the area, Jones coordinated the search, checking security cameras in the area for leads and managing the information as it began to filter in.

"Some of it was rumor, and some of it was miscommunication," he said. For example, searchers were first told Kirby had been wearing an orange hat, but later were told the hat actually was dark red.

It might seem like a minor issue, he said, but it meant that a lot of the area would have to be searched again.

The search involved the area between CR 500N, around Tyler's Crossing, south to CR 300N, along the south side of CSL.

On Monday, March 30, ISP had issued a statewide Silver Alert. The next day, March 31, the search team expanded to include Jackson County deputies and detectives, who brought a boat with side-scanning sonar and a camera-equipped drone; the Jennings County Swift Water Rescue Team, which searched all the lakes in the area; local DNR officers; ISP detectives and an ISP helicopter equipped with a number of cameras, including thermal imaging; which would help find Kirby, had he been injured or unconscious in the woods; and a helicopter manned by the Indiana National Guard; and, eventually State Fire Marshall Ross Keasling.

At least 30 people were involved throughout the search-and-rescue operation and in the next phase, searching for Kirby's remains when "potential evidence" began to point toward foul play.

Detectives conducted interviews with many witnesses and others who had come forward with information, and obtained enough information to meet the standard of probable cause needed to issue a search warrant of Marantos' residence.

Physical evidence, including a cell phone belonging to Kirby, implicated foul play and that Marantos was involved in Kirby's disappearance.

"Wherever the evidence leads us is the direction we go, and it led us to A.J. Marantos," Jones said.

Meanwhile, Freeman had been alerted by Jackson County that they were planning to arrest Marantos on Thursday, April 2, and arrest him for an unrelated robbery that had occurred in that county.

Fearing Marantos might flee from the Jackson County deputies, Freeman assigned a detective to keep Marantos under surveillance. The detective followed Marantos to set up a traffic stop.

Before they were able to perform the traffic stop, Marantos spotted officers following him and fled in his car, leading them on a high-speed chase that ended when Marantos crashed and rolled the vehicle.

He then attempted to flee on foot, but officers with a police dog chased him through a field and into the woods, where other deputies were waiting.

"He had no way of escaping," Freeman said.

Once in custody, Marantos was turned over to Jackson County officials, who booked him on the robbery charge, Jones said.
For the next two to three weeks, Jones and his team continued the investigation. That, however, was hampered by restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 outbreak, which led to a reduction in the hours state lab analysts had to work on the case and analyze new evidence.

A total team effort

Prosecutor Belding credited the "fantastic job of cooperation between various agencies" with developing the case to date.
Belding's efforts, also, were as vital to bringing the case forward as the work done by all the agencies that had a hand in the investigation, Freeman and Jones said.

"We want everyone to know that we never gave up on searching [for Kirby], and [Marantos' arrest] doesn't mean we're quitting," Freeman said.

Anyone who believes they may have additional information in the case is encouraged to contact detectives, as well.

"There might still be some good information out there," Freeman said.

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