Adam Dees appeared calm Thursday during his first court hearing since an Ada County grand jury indicted him for the March deaths of Ted, Elaine and Tom Welp at their home on North Cartwright Road.
Shackled to a wheelchair because of the seriousness of the three first-degree murder charges against him, Dees, 22, from Nampa, read the indictment as he waited for 4th District Magistrate Michael Oths to arrive for the 1:30 p.m. arraignment.
Dees, who appeared via a video hookup from the Ada County Jail, spoke with attorney Tony Geddes and nodded several times before court convened. At one point, he smiled slightly as he appeared to notice a photographer taking his photo from a television monitor inside a courtroom at the Ada County Courthouse.
Geddes waived a formal reading of the indictment, which also charges Dees with four counts of forgery of a credit card, two counts of robbery, and one count each of burglary, use of a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime and concealing a dangerous weapon. Dees did not speak during the brief hearing.
Never miss a local story.
Because of the grand jury indictment, Dees will not proceed to a preliminary hearing in magistrate court — a step usually required to determine if a case should proceed to district court and a trial. His next scheduled court hearing is an April 16 district court arraignment before 4th District Judge Sam Hoagland, where Dees will have the opportunity to enter his pleas to the charges.
The murder charges were announced about four weeks after Dees was arrested on older charges of grand theft and forgery related to the case, and after a family member and law enforcement officials found the bodies March 10.
According to the indictment, Dees on either March 8 or 9 bludgeoned and shot Ted Welp, 80, his wife Elaine, 77, and their son Tom, 52. A baseball bat and 9 mm handgun were listed as the murder weapons.
Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Jan Bennetts said Wednesday her office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty if Dees is convicted in the murders. Bennetts will have 60 days after Dees enters his pleas to decide that. If the death penalty is not sought, Dees would face up to life in prison.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has kept most details of the investigation under wraps, and some neighbors of the Welp family said last month that the incident unsettled them, rattling their sense of safety in the Foothills.
Neighbor Jon Neviaser said Thursday he and other neighbors are glad about the new progress in the case.
"It's horrible what happened to those people," he said.
Neviaser had been confident Dees would be charged early on as he’d heard during the investigation that Dees, when arrested, had signs of having been in some sort of altercation. A spokesman for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office Thursday said he couldn’t address that detail.
Now, Neviaser and other neighbors hope to understand what connected Dees to the Welp family and how he got into their home, Neviaser said.
"That's what we would all like to know," he said.