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Entries in Murder Trial (43)

Sunday
May122013

Trial in Model's Alleged Murder by Female Enforcer Set to Begin

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the trial of Kelly Soo Park, who prosecutors allege strangled an actress and model with her bare hands.

Park, 47, was described in court documents last year as being an enforcer hired by a wealthy doctor to strong-arm anyone who crossed him.

She has been free on $3.5 million bail, awaiting trial for the 2008 murder of Juliana Redding, 21, whom prosecutors say Park killed when the doctor sent her to "intimidate" the young woman.

Redding moved from Arizona to Santa Monica, Calif., to work as an actress and model, but two years after she began her career, Redding was found beaten and strangled in her apartment.

Prosecutors allege Park worked for Dr. Munir Uwaydah as his real estate broker and financial assistant, but was also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to act as Uwaydah's "debt collector." The doctor referred to Park as "James Bond," according to court documents.

Uwaydah and Redding's father, Greg Redding, had reportedly planned to go into business together. Redding backed out of the deal on March 10, 2008, according to prosecutors, after he was reportedly concerned Uwaydah's business was not operating legally.

Park was "dispatched" by Uwaydah to "confront and intimidate" Juliana Redding on March 15, 2008, according to court documents, the date police said Redding was murdered.

Investigators said Park was linked to the crime by DNA evidence, but defense attorneys have argued the real killer was Redding's boyfriend, John Gilmore.

Gilmore was cleared as a suspect after his girlfriend's murder and had insisted he had several alibis.

"They're trying to point the finger at Gilmore, saying he had, at one time, allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend," ABC News legal analyst Dana Cole said.

Court documents last year said Uwaydah fled the U.S. shortly after Park was arrested in 2010 and has since been living in Lebanon.

Uwaydah has not been charged with a crime. A court motion filed last year specifies that prosecutors are "not seeking to prove that [Park] murdered Ms. Redding at the direction of Dr. Uwaydah," only that he instructed Park to intimidate and threaten the young actress.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Feb232013

Jessica Ridgeway Murder Suspect Allegedly Confessed on 911 Call

Courtesy Westminster Police Department(DENVER) -- The teenage suspect in the murder and dismemberment of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway will stand trial after a judge ruled there is enough evidence, including an alleged 911 confession, to move forward with the case.

Prosecutors played the 911 recording on Friday at a preliminary hearing for Austin Sigg, 18, in which the teen confessed to murdering the fifth grader and trying to kidnap a female jogger.

"I murdered Jessica Ridgeway, I have proof that I did. I'm giving myself up completely, there will be no resistance whatsoever," Sigg said on the Oct. 23, 2012, recording, according to ABC News Denver affiliate KMGH-TV.

The dispatcher then asked about his criminal history.

"The only other [incident] was Ketner Lake, where a woman was attacked. That was me," Sigg said in the recording.

A lead investigator on the case testified that Mindy Sigg, the teen's mother, told the dispatcher her son had hidden Jessica's remains in a crawl space under the family home, KMGH reported.

Authorities arrested Sigg at his Westminster, Colo., home that evening.

Sigg is charged with murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery in the Ridgeway case.

He faces an attempted kidnapping charge for the May 28, 2012, attack on a 22-year-old female jogger. Police said a man tried to grab her from behind on a trail around Ketner Lake.

The woman said the man tried to put a rag over her mouth that had a chemical smell. She was able to get away and call 911.

A judge ruled Friday that Sigg should be held without bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned March 12.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb172013

Facebook Murder Trial: Closing Arguments Set for This Week

Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) -- Closing arguments are set to begin this week in the trial of a California teenager who allegedly lured his victim, an up and coming boxer, using a bogus Facebook profile and then fatally shot him.

Prosecutors say Manuel Edmundo Guzman Jr., 19, was the man hiding behind a phony Facebook profile of a fictional woman he named Rebecca Santhiago.

Guzman, who was 17 at the time Eddie Leal was gunned down, used photos of an East Coast Internet model in the profile in attempts to lure young men, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

His motive, prosecutors say, was simply to kill for a thrill.

On May 30, 2011, Leal, 23, a professional bantamweight boxer, went to meet Rebecca Santhiago, the sultry single he had been Facebook messaging with, at a San Jacinto park, according to prosecutors.

But first, Santhiago had asked Leal to pick her up a Four Loko drink, according to the Press-Enterprise in Riverside. She advised Leal to pick up her brother, who would guide him to a liquor store, the newspaper reported.

Instead, prosecutors say Leal met Guzman, who shot him multiple times.

Authorities found Leal shot to death in the driver’s seat of his Toyota Corolla, which they said hit a parked car during the ambush.

The Facebook profile was traced to a computer at Guzman’s mother’s house, where he lived, prosecutors said.

Guzman’s defense attorney, however, has argued that the case is circumstantial and said there is no evidence the teenager fired a gun.

If convicted, Guzman faces life in prison.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan032013

Jodi Arias Trial: Defense Claims Victim Was Sexual Deviant

Jodi Arias/Myspace(MESA, Ariz.) -- Defense attorneys for Jodi Arias, the 32-year-old Arizona woman who has admitted to brutally murdering her former boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008, claim that she was abused and controlled by Alexander, who she says was a sexual deviant.

Arias is facing the death penalty if convicted in the capital murder case.  She is accused of stabbing Alexander 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head as he showered in his Mesa, Ariz., home in 2008.  A jury will have to decide if she is a cold-blooded murderer or was a victim of domestic violence, as she claims, who was forced to kill.

Appearing in court Wednesday as the trial opened, Arias cried through much of the opening arguments.  Prosecutor Juan Martinez told the court that it's clear that Arias murdered Alexander.

"This is not a case of whodunit," he said.  "The whodunit sits in court today."

Prosecutors told the jury Wednesday that Alexander was a devout Mormon who was seduced and then stalked by Arias, and killed by her in a jealous rage when she learned he was dating other women.

"She rewarded that love by sticking a knife in his chest," Martinez told the court.  "She slit his throat as a reward for being a good man."

Arias' attorney, Jennifer Willmott, told the jury her client was forced to kill in self defense, saying that her client was abused and controlled by Alexander, who she claims was a sexual deviant.  Willmott showed the jury a t-shirt she says he made Arias wear, with lettering that says "Travis Alexander's."

"That t-shirt is the perfect example of how Travis treated her," she said.

The couple only dated a few months after meeting in 2006 at a work convention in Las Vegas.  But the two continued a sexual relationship -- including on the day of the crime.

Police found a camera in Alexander's washing machine.  They say Arias was literally trying to wash away the evidence.

Found on the camera's memory card were pictures of their final sexual encounter, shots of Alexander in the shower -- seconds before he was killed -- and pictures that appeared to be taken accidently when the camera was dropped.  One of the images shows Alexander's bloody body, and another shows Arias actually dragging his body across the ground.

In a series of jailhouse interviews since her 2008 arrest, Arias repeatedly changed her story.  First, she denied being at Alexander's house the night of the murder, but two weeks later, she told the TV show Inside Edition she was there.

"I witnessed Travis being attacked by two other individuals," she said.  "Who were they?  I don't know."

Now, she admits to killing Alexander, but says she had to after he attacked her when she dropped his new camera.

"Jodi Arias killed Travis Alexander," Willmott said in court Wednesday.  "The million-dollar question is what would have forced her to do it, and throughout this trial you will hear that Jodi was indeed forced."

Willmott told the court that Arias, who has remained in jail since her arrest, repeatedly lied about the killing because she was scared.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec182012

Valedictorian Murder Trial: Jeffrey Pyne Found Guilty of Killing His Mother

Hemera/Thinkstock(HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich.) -- A Michigan jury Tuesday found Jeffrey Pyne guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his mentally ill mother.

Pyne, 22, a former high school valedictorian, star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, had been accused of killing his 51-year-old mother, Ruth Pyne, in the family's Highland Township, Mich., garage on May 27, 2011.

Ruth Pyne had been bludgeoned and stabbed 16 times.

The trial began on Nov. 16. Pyne never took the stand, and his defense did not call any witnesses to testify.

When the verdict was announced in court Tuesday, Pyne appeared to be taken aback. Reacting to the verdict, he tilted his head slightly and blinked rapidly.

He had been charged with first-degree murder but the unanimous jury found him guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charge.

Pyne was well-liked in the Highland Park community, and many people did not believe he was responsible for his mother's death.

Prosecutors said he had been fueled by pent-up rage after years of abuse at the hands of his mother, who spent time in jail for assaulting him in 2010. Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

But Pyne's defense had said he was not involved in any way with his mother's death, claiming a stranger or strangers likely attacked Ruth Pyne.

The prosecution's case had been largely circumstantial. There was no physical evidence linking Pyne to the killing, but prosecutors did present photos taken shortly after the killing that showed Pyne's blistered hands.

Pyne has said the blisters came from throwing a wooden storage pallet at his job on a local farm.

Speaking to reporters outside the court Tuesday, Pyne's father, Bernie, said he was surprised by the verdict.

"I believe in my son's innocence and I wasn't able to get him home for his sister for Christmas, so it's not been a good year," he said, according to ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ-TV. "I have to go tell Jeffrey's 12-year-old sister that it's just her and me now."

Jeffrey Pyne's ex-girlfriend, Holly Freeman, had testified during the trial that Pyne's mother was dangerous, delusional and off her medication. Freeman said Ruth Pyne would often assault her son, adding that Jeffrey Pyne was fearful of his little sister, Julia, being left alone in the house with their mother.

Ruth Pyne's sister said the guilty verdict provided "some justice."

"She was not the monster the media portrayed her to be," Linda Jarvie told reporters. "I am deeply saddened by my sister Ruth's senseless death. This was a heinous crime. Ruth Pyne was a victim."

James Champion, Pyne's attorney, also spoke after the verdict was read, saying: "I told him last Christmas that that was the last Christmas he'd spend in jail, and I had every intention of making that promise come true but we didn't get it done, so tomorrow we'll pick ourselves back up and figure out how to move along."

Pyne will be sentenced on Jan. 29. He faces a possible sentence of 7 ½ years to 12 ½ years in prison.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

Valedictorian Murder Trial: Dad Defends Son

ABC News(DETROIT) -- Bernie Pyne has publicly defended his son Jeffrey Pyne just as the case against the former high school valedictorian accused of killing his mother is expected to go to a jury on Friday.

"It's a tough thing to go through," Bernie told reporters outside a Michigan courthouse on Thursday.  "All I can tell you is that I know my son, my son would never harm his mother.  He would never harm her."

Jeffrey, 22, a former star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, is accused of killing his mentally ill mother, Ruth Pyne, 51, who was beaten and stabbed 16 times in the family's Highland Township, Mich., garage in May 2011.

The case against his son is not rooted in fact, Bernie told the reporters, despite what prosecutors had said in court only a few hours earlier.  They accused Jeffrey of using a board in the family's garage to beat his mother repeatedly before stabbing her to death.

"When he is going to get that board, you can infer from that he has the intent to kill her, when he goes to get the board, there is no other reason to go and get that board," prosecuting attorney John Skrzynski told the court.

Defense attorneys say Ruth was mentally ill and abused her son for years.  She spent time in jail for assaulting him in 2010.  Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

"The trail has largely been circumstantial," Lori Brasier, a criminal justice reporter for the Detroit Free Press, told ABC News.  "They don't have any physical evidence."

Prosecutors do have photos taken of Jeffrey's blistered hands, taken shortly after the crime.  Jeffrey says the blisters came from throwing a wooden storage pallet at his job on a local farm.

"They have a lot of medical testimony that his story of how that happened is unlikely," Brasier said.

But the community that has supported the former biology student remains skeptical about his involvement in the killing.

"I still feel very confident that Jeffrey is innocent, and that the jury will see it my way, also," Donna Gundle-Kriag, a family friend and Jeffrey's former teacher, told ABC News.

So does his father, who believes the jury will absolve his son.

"We're going to trust that the system works," he said.  "He has a 12-year-old sister who wants him home for Christmas, and that is our prayer."

The defense will make its closing argument on Friday, maintaining that Jeffrey was not involved in his mother's death.  The jury is expected to get the case Friday afternoon.

If convicted, Jeffrey faces life in prison without parole.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec072012

Florida Lottery Murder Trial: Victim's Ex Calls Suspect Manipulative

Hemera/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The ex-girlfriend of Abraham Shakespeare, the Florida lotto winner who prosecutors say was swindled out of his money and killed by Dee Dee Moore, testified at Moore's trial that Moore lied to her about Shakespeare's running off with another woman when he disappeared.

Sentorria Butler, Shakespeare's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, told the court on the ninth day of the trial Thursday that Moore is a divisive and manipulative woman.

"She [Moore] said he ran off with the lady from the bank, and that he wasn't coming back," Butler said.  "She wanted me to be so mad with him."

Prosecutors say that Moore, 40, befriended Shakespeare before he vanished in April 2009 after he'd won $30 million in the Florida lottery.  After Shakespeare had given away most of his money to people who simply asked for it, Moore agreed to manage the little he had left, but instead, prosecutors say, stole his winnings and killed him.

After days of crying in court throughout the trial, Moore had another emotional outburst on Thursday after Butler's testimony.  Tampa, Fla., Judge Emmett Battles temporarily stopped the trial so Moore could pull herself together.

"Ms. Moore, I'm going to tell you once again, you need to compose yourself. ... Do you want another moment to talk to your lawyer?" Battles asked.

Moore was so distraught by Butler's testimony that she yelled out at one point, "I'm tired of these people lying.  This is my life."

Moore then insisted that her lawyers, against their better judgment, show portions of a home video she had shot of Butler that Moore believe proved Butler was lying on the witness stand.  Butler said Moore had told her that the video was being shot for the website mybabydaddy.com.

Butler testified that Moore manipulated her and got her to say on camera that Shakespeare beat her, and that he had AIDS.  Butler said she was lying in the video.

"She showed up with a camera and asked me to participate in her foolish thing of, 'I want to make this thing up, and put it online," Butler told the court.

Jurors also watched a Walmart surveillance video that the prosecution says links Moore to Shakespeare's killing.  The footage shows Moore making a $104 cash purchase of gloves, duct tape, plastic sheeting and other items that detectives later found close to where Shakespeare's body was buried.

An informant testified earlier in the trial that he told Moore he would need the items to get rid of Shakespeare's body.

Moore maintains her innocence, saying she was trying to help Shakespeare collect unpaid debts and protect him from the many people trying to take advantage of him.

Prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty in the case.  If Moore is convicted, she faces life in prison.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec042012

Florida Lotto Murder Trial: Judge Orders Escorts for Jittery Jurors

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The jurors hearing the murder trial of DeeDee Moore, the Florida woman accused of killing lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare, will be accompanied by a security escort into the courtroom after they told the judge that a witness and Shakespeare's family and friends were making them feel uncomfortable outside the courthouse.

Prosecutors say that Moore, 40, befriended Shakespeare, who disappeared in April 2009, after he won $30 million in the Florida lottery.  After Shakespeare burned through most of the money, Moore agreed to manage the little he had left, but instead, prosecutors say, she stole his money and killed him.

Moore has denied the charges.

Two jurors identified witness Greg Smith, a former friend of Shakespeare, 47, and supposed friend of Moore, as the person they said made them feel uncomfortable in the parking garage after Friday's session.  A third juror said some members of the gallery made her feel uncomfortable.

In court, Tampa, Fla., Judge Emmett Battles asked a juror whether the perception that she had been stared down by the witness and Shakespeare's friends and family would affect her ability to be fair and impartial in the case.

"No, I just want to feel safe," the juror said.

None of the jurors have been excused by the judge.

On Monday, the jurors focused on a rambling two-page letter that Smith, a police informant, says Moore allegedly forged while at a Comfort Inn & Suites in Lakeland, Fla., which was meant to appear to be from Shakespeare, prosecutors say.  They say the letter was a ruse to convince Shakespeare's mother that he was still alive.  Moore attempted to cover her tracks while it was written, according to prosecutors.

"She had a brand-new laptop, set up and a printer, [and] she had a rubber-type gloves on," Smith testified.  "And a scarf pullover-type thing over her head."

Smith testified that he was informing police of his interactions with Moore as he pretended to help her create the illusion that Shakespeare was still alive.  In court, Smith read in its entirety the letter that prosecutors say Moore forged.

"Don't worry about Dee," the letter read.  "There are too many people that know I left.  I gave her enough money … she would not take anything from me unless I agreed."

At one point in the motel room, which had been wired for audio by police, Moore said, "This letter will buy me time to go to Miami before I get arrested."

Shortly after the letter was written, Shakespeare's body was found buried under a slab of concrete in Moore's backyard.

Jurors on Monday also listened to a recorded conversation in which Moore admitted she was afraid of being arrested.  She had the conversation with Smith as she drove him to Shakespeare's mother's house to drop off the letter.

Moore maintains her innocence, saying she was trying to help Shakespeare collect unpaid debts and protect him from the many people trying to take advantage of him.  Her defense attorneys have argued that the evidence against her is circumstantial, and that Moore's gun might have been used to shoot Shakespeare, but noted that ballistics tests were incomplete.

Prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty in the case.  If Moore is convicted, she faces life in prison.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov302012

Jurors Watch Interrogation Tape in Valedictorian Murder Trial

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in his first degree murder trial, jurors, along with the community that continues to stand behind him, heard from Jeffrey Pyne, the former high school valedictorian who is accused of bludgeoning his mother to death in the family's garage.

Pyne, a former star athlete and University of Michigan biology student, is accused of the murder of his mentally ill mother Ruth Pyne, 51, who was viciously beaten and stabbed 16 times in the family's Highland Township, Mich., garage in May 2011.

On Wednesday, the court first heard from Jeffrey, 22, viewing tapes of interviews with him taken by police after his mother's murder.

"Someone killed your mom.  It's not an accident," Detective Sgt. David Hendrix is heard saying on the tape, as Jeffrey is seen putting his hands over his face.  When Hendrix asks Jeffrey if he did anything that day to hurt his mom, Jeffrey says, "No … no."

Friends and neighbors in the tightly-knit Highland Township community refuse to believe Jeffrey killed his mother.  But prosecutors say he had motive and opportunity.

"She got home from grocery shopping.  I helped her bring the groceries in," Jeffrey said when being questioned.  Through tears, he later said, "I'm having a hard enough time … She's always been a really nice lady."

Prosecutors suggest that was a lie, and that Ruth had a history of mental illness, and was often violent toward her children.  In 2010, she was arrested and held in jail after attacking Jeffrey.  Charges were dropped when she was treated at a hospital and promised to stay on her medication.

"I graduated high school and she just went manic … it was a change … she wasn't depressed anymore, she [was] just crazy," jurors heard Jeffrey say on the tape.

The day of her death, Jeffrey told investigators things had been getting better with his mother, telling investigators, "We didn't even argue today."

Sitting in court Wednesday, Jeffrey showed little emotion -- a stark contrast from the man jurors watched in the police interrogation video that was shot just hours after the murder.  Jeffrey says he was at work at the time of the killing, and maintains he is innocent.

In the tape, police can be seen checking Jeffrey's body for signs of a struggle.  Officers photographed injuries on his hand, blisters Jeffrey said he got lifting wooden pallets at his job.  Jeffrey had explained the wounds to his boss, who testified, was the results of throwing a shipping pallet.

"It did seem odd to me," his boss, farmer William Cartwright said.  "I expected more of a splinter or scrape than what looked like rope burns."

It is still not clear if Jeffrey will take the stand during his trial.  If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct092012

NY Prosecutors Resist ‘Witch Doctor’ in Murder Trial

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Prosecutors do not want a “witch doctor” to take the stand in the defense of an African man accused of killing a New York City college student, according to court documents and the defendant’s attorney.

The first-degree murder trial of Bakary Camara, 42, a Senagalese man accused of killing Rita Morelli, a student and co-worker at a Manhattan clothing shop, is set to begin Tuesday.  After his arrest last year, Camara allegedly told police that evil spirits led him to stab Morelli, 36, to death in her apartment.  He has since pleaded not guilty.

“The people respectfully request the court to preclude the defense from calling a ‘witch doctor’ at trial,” Manhattan prosecutor Evan Krutoy wrote the judge last week, according to documents first obtained by the New York Post.

“It is difficult to imagine how a ‘witch doctor’ could be qualified in a court of law,” the prosecutor added.  “The defense cannot credibly argue that witchcraft is a profession [with] scientific knowledge or skill.”

Camara’s lawyer, however, objects to characterizing her witness as a “witch doctor.”

“That’s not my term.  I wouldn’t call him that,” Camara’s attorney, Seema Iyer, said.  “I’d call him a spiritual adviser.”

Iyer said she could not discuss the strategy for defending her client in detail, but said she would “soon be in court to talk about who can testify.”

Camara was arrested last year after cops found him in his own apartment trying to commit suicide.  A note found in his apartment allegedly read, “I killed Rita.”

Camara later allegedly told police the evil spirits told him to kill Morelli, an Italian national with whom he worked at clothing store 7 for All Mankind.

“They put a curse on me,” the note read.

It is unclear whether Camara and Morelli were involved romantically.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio