Murder trial moved to January

Published 9:58 am Friday, June 11, 2010

Flanked by his new defense team Thursday, accused murderer Tom Wilcox learned Thursday he will stand trial next year on a multi-count indictment stemming from the death of his estranged wife last April.

Last month Wilcox asked Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Charles Cooper to appoint new defense lawyers in place of Charles Knight and William Eachus, saying he needed to “seek better counsel to explore all his options.”

Thursday he appeared with Jerry McHenry and Greg Meyers of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender.

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“We need to fix a trial date to work against,” Cooper told the lawyers. “I understand there may be need to delay but we need a trial date to work against. What is the earliest full month you have available?”

Paul Scarsella, the lead prosecutor assigned by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, told Cooper he and the defense co-counsel had discussed the matter earlier and determined Jan. 13 would be the earliest date all lawyers would be available for the potentially one-month trial — this includes a week to a week and a half for jury selection, time for the actual trial and, if Wilcox is found guilty, time for the penalty phase of the trial.

Wilcox is facing the death penalty in the case.

The next pretrial will be 11 a.m. June 29.

Asked if coming into a trial in such circumstances — more than a year after the incident and more than a year after other attorneys have had the Wilcox case, McHenry said it won’t be a factor.

“We’ve had the benefit of consulting with earlier counsel and we have their files. That makes it easier. But we’re still playing catch up. We’ll give it our best shot.”

Wilcox, 39, is accused of beating and then setting afire his estranged wife, Amy, 38, at her Perry Township home in late April 2009. She died of her injuries nearly two months later.

He was indicted on three different aggravated murder charges. All three include specifications that state the aggravated murder occurred along with other crimes.

However, each aggravated murder charge is based on different theories.

The first aggravated murder charge alleges the act was premeditated. The second alleges the murder occurred as a result of the arson; the third alleges the murder as a result of the robbery.

He is also charged with aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, domestic violence and, because his 11-year-old daughter was in the home when he allegedly set the fire, he is also charged with child endangerment. He remains in the Scioto County Jail under a $10 million bond.

Wilcox had sought earlier this year to have that amount reduced, saying the amount of the bond may make him look guilty to prospective jurors, but Cooper denied the request.