Murder trial to begin Monday

Feb. 2—ELKHART — An Elkhart man will face trial on Monday for murder at Monarch Mobile Home Park in November 2021.

Jake A. Brunette, 26, Elkhart, is charged in the murder of Andrew Conley, 23, on Nov. 17, 2021.

Elkhart police responded to a call at 7:55 that morning from a man who'd said he'd been stabbed during a fight at Monarch Mobile Home Park, 2312 Cassopolis St. At the scene, police found the victim, Conley, lying outside, unconscious with numerous stab wounds and began first aid before medics arrived. Conley died en route to the hospital.

According to a probable cause affidavit, a witness told officers at the scene that the two men lived with her and that Brunette had stabbed Conley and chased him out of the home, later returning to inform her that he'd killed Conley.

Brunette told officers during the investigation that he'd awoken from a dream that he had stabbed and killed Conley and thought to himself that he needed to actually do it. According to the probable cause affidavit, after showering, putting on gloves and wrapping his pocket knife in duct tape for a better grip, Brunette entered Conley's room and began stabbing him in the back. Conley attempted to call 911, but Brunette alleges he slapped the phone out of his hands and told him he was going to die, the affidavit reads.

According to the witness' statement, Brunette and Conley were in a romantic relationship, but had stopped sharing a bedroom recently per Brunette's request. Shortly after, Conley began dating a woman, which upset Brunette. Awakened in the early morning hours by Brunette and Conley fighting, the witness said she found Conley naked, covered in blood, and holding his side, claiming that Brunette was going to kill him before the two men exited the home — and Conley was killed.

In February 2022, Brunette began competency evaluations to determine whether he has the mental capacity to stand trial and the reviews were mixed. Public Defender Matthew Johnson noted during a court date with Elkhart County Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno that month that Brunette has a history of long stints in in-patient therapy for both mental health and drug issues.

In August, the two evaluations came in with differing professional opinions, causing an additional court-appointed evaluation to break the tie. The determination by that doctor was that Brunette did meet the minimum competency requirements.

Johnson also confirmed that Brunette's defense will be surrounding general denial. The trial remains set for Monday.

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at or at 574-538-2065.