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Trial set for man charged in death of estranged wife

July 13, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A tentative trial date has been set for a Chambersburg man charged in the 2002 stabbing death of his estranged wife, but a Franklin County judge has yet to rule on whether statements she made to police days before her death will be admissible in court.

Judge John R. Walker has set a trial date of Sept. 14-20 for William Edward Cleary, 31, of 137 E. Garfield St. He is charged with criminal homicide in the July 6, 2002, fatal stabbing of Teresa Jean Cleary, 33, outside her Fayetteville, Pa., apartment, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Among the issues raised in a pre-trial hearing Friday were statements Teresa Cleary made to state police on July 3. According to court records, she was in the bathtub when William Cleary entered her house to talk to her about their recent separation.

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The discussion escalated into an argument, but the police incident report stated there was no physical assault. Teresa Cleary told police he unplugged the phone while she was calling police and threatened her life, court records allege.

"I'll come back after ball practice and put a bullet in your head if I want to," William Cleary said to her, Teresa Cleary alleged in her statement to police.

She later called police again after seeing his van outside her home, police said. William Cleary was interviewed by police the same night and denied making the threat, according to police records.

The prosecution also wants to introduce statements Cleary's former wife made in 1996 in her application for a protection from abuse order. According to the motion by Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Timothy Wilmot, Cleary told the woman "that if she were ever unfaithful to him, he would shoot her and cut her throat."

His ex-wife, Sherry Rosenberry, testified during Friday's pre-trial hearing, according to Public Defender Michael Toms, Cleary's co-counsel.

Toms said he asked the court at a July 1 hearing to order forensic tests on a rape kit and other evidence that was collected at the time of the killing, but never tested. Toms would not say how that evidence could assist in Cleary's defense.

Those tests, if performed, could delay the trial beyond September, Toms said.

Teresa Cleary's death was witnessed by several people near her apartment, according to police records. When police arrived, they found her with a knife sticking in her neck and William Cleary lying beside her.

William Cleary was treated for three knife wounds to his neck, according to court records.

Cleary is charged with first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without parole if he is convicted.

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