Updated at 4:07 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, with more information.
The plan is to extend a plea offer by the next hearing.
A Hamilton County Criminal Court judge said Thursday that he expects to know by the end of October if the theft case of the former owner of Wichman Monuments will go to trial.
Judge Barry Steelman set a new hearing date of Oct. 30 for Trent Daniel Wichman, who had operated the 72-year-old business on Brainerd Road that suddenly closed last year. Wichman, 33, was charged with theft related to not filling orders for which people had paid.
Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Coyle told Steelman that he plans to be in a position to make a plea offer in the case by the October hearing.
"The plan is to extend a plea offer by the next hearing," he said.
Wichman, who was charged with theft of property in July 2018, has entered a "not guilty" plea and is free on bond.
Wichman attorney Ben McGowan said he understood that the prosecutor had been talking to a person who was omitted from refunds that victims had been receiving. McGowan said the prosecutor didn't expect another indictment to be filed.
The monuments business allegedly had stopped filling hundreds of orders on headstones and markers for which people had paid.
The property was later sold and the assets turned over to a third party, which has been trying to settle claims.
Randy Wilson of Randy Wilson Painting bought the parcel at 5225 Brainerd Road. He later put the property up for sale.
Wilson said he formed a company, A&R Holdings Inc., and purchased the property for $400,000 from Wichman's grandparents and agreed to accept responsibility for the customer accounts, which numbered about 260.
Wilson said last month that all but three or four claims were outstanding. He said those people were debating with themselves on what to put on the monuments.
"As far as I know, all the stones ordered are paid for," he said.
He said the cost of the property and paying the claims will probably be a little more than $400,000.
In February of last year, the local Better Business Bureau began to receive complaints about Wichman Monuments. In March, the Chattanooga Police Department said it had opened a fraud investigation after receiving complaints.
Also that month, Wichman said the business had shut down permanently. A statement said the closure was precipitated by rising costs and the loss of some key employees to illness.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.