Venue change key in Wilcox trial

Published 9:55 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

Attorneys on both sides of the Tom Wilcox murder case said they think they can agree on most of the procedural motions that have been filed in the case — but the special prosecutor said the defense’s request for a change of venue may be a point of debate in the future.

The two sides met for a status conference Wednesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court in front of Judge Charles Cooper.

Thus far defense attorneys have filed more than 80 motions on behalf of Wilcox, 38, of Ironton, accused in connection with arson and the death of his estranged wife, Amy Wilcox, earlier this year.

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Special Prosecutor Paul Scarsella, with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said while he thinks most of the motions filed can be resolved without much debate, he is likely to oppose any requests to move the trial elsewhere.

“I am not in agreement with a change of venue,” Scarsella said. “I think it’s untimely at this point.”

During proceedings last month, defense co-counsel Charles Knight said he and co-counsel Bill Eachus would likely ask to move the trial out of Lawrence County because of tremendous pretrial publicity.

Knight said Wednesday after the status conference that although the case is progressing, he thinks the prosecution has little evidence linking his client to the Wilcox death.

“I don’t think they have much evidence except Tom’s appearance and a fire,” Knight said. “The arson investigator said gasoline was detected, but that doesn’t mean arson. There was an accelerant and everyone got burned.”

Knight said there was no witness to the fire, but admitted the Wilcox’s daughter, Emily, was at the home before the fire was set and was sent “next door” by her father.

The status conference lasted less than a half hour and, as he has during previous proceedings, Cooper asked Wilcox if he was getting treatment for his burn wounds and if he is able to speak with his attorneys often enough. Wilcox replied in the affirmative to both questions.

Wilcox is accused of going to his estranged wife’s Perry Township residence in late April, assaulting her and then setting her on fire.

She was taken to a hospital in Cincinnati but died of her wounds in early June.

Tom Wilcox was also allegedly burned in the incident. He spent several weeks in a hospital in Louisville, Ky., before being brought back to Lawrence County to face charges in connection with the incident.

Cooper scheduled another status conference for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16.