Cindy Venis

Lebanon man arrested for wife's murder

August 11, 2006

Boone County - A Boone County man is in jail, accused of killing his wife. It happened last night in Lebanon. A short time later, suspect Michael Venis of Lebanon, surrendered to police after a 30-minute standoff.

Just three months ago, 42-year-old Cindy Venis made a plea for her son-in-law, wanted for murder, to turn himself into police.

James Froman was arrested for the murder of a 19-year-old woman. Now as Froman sits in the Boone County jail, he learns that his mother-in-law is now a murder victim. The accused killer is Cindy Venis' husband Michael Venis.

"According to family, they had been discussing, perhaps, getting a divorce and apparently last night, things came to a head," said Lt. Brent Wheat, Lebanon Police Department.

According to the couple's adult daughter, at her parents' Lebanon home, the couple were arguing. Police believe Michael Venis had been drinking. "She stepped out of the kitchen, heard a commotion, then a single gunshot. She ran back inside the kitchen to find her mother had been shot and her father leaving at that point," said Lt. Wheat.

Police spotted Venis' car in Brownsburg where he surrendered after threatening to kill himself in a standoff with police. Investigators recovered the shotgun they say Venis used to kill his wife, shooting her at point blank range in the head.

Now, Michanel Venis is housed in the Boone County jail with his son-in-law, both accused of two separate murders that have torn their family apart.

Police say there's no history of domestic violence, only that the couple had been contemplating divorce recently. Investigators say they recovered the shotgun used in the shooting and that it was in Venis' car.


A jury trial was held October 16 – 19, 2007. The jury heard evidence of the above. Dr. Joseph Czaja, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy of Cindy, testified that she died from a single shotgun injury of the head. According to Dr. Czaja, the shot hit the left side of her head between the eye and the ear, tearing through her skull, and exiting with “a large and gaping” exit wound and “brain matter . . . coming out of the wound.” (Tr. 483). Dr. Czaja testified that muzzle stamping, from a gun held “up against the head in a near, very near contact or close contact” with Cindy’s head, left a visible “impression of the gun.” (Tr. 480, 478). Dr. Czaja testified that Exhibit 26 showed the brain matter extruded as a result of the injury.

Venis took the witness stand and testified that he had “pointed” the gun at Cindy after she “kept hollerin’” at him, pulled the hammer back “to get her attention,” and then “tapped [her] on the temple with the end of the barrel.” (Tr. 626, 625, 626). According to Venis, the gun then accidentally “went off.”

The jury found Venis guilty of murder. Subsequently, the trial court sentenced him to serve a term of fifty-five years.


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