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Murder trial delayed to allow for more DNA testing

September 09, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The trial of a man accused in the stabbing death of his estranged wife two years ago has been postponed from next week until at least November to allow more time for DNA testing and a psychiatric exam, according to Franklin County Court records.

The jury trial for William E. Cleary, 30, on a charge of first-degree murder had been scheduled to begin next week. Cleary, of 137 E. Garfield St., is charged in the July 6, 2002, death of Teresa Jean Cleary, who was stabbed to death outside her Fayetteville, Pa., home, according to Pennsylvania State Police records.

In the defense motion for the continuance, Public Defender Michael J. Toms stated "the results of DNA testing are not yet available."

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"They collected DNA samples at the scene, but there were some that were not tested," Toms said Wednesday.

"I'm not at liberty to say where the DNA was collected at the scene," according to Toms, who said that information might compromise defense strategy. He declined to comment on what the DNA samples could reveal.

Toms' motion for the continuance, which Judge John R. Walker signed Wednesday, also noted that Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Tim Wilmot has scheduled an examination of Cleary by a forensic psychiatrist in Philadelphia on Sept. 16.

The trial had been scheduled to start next Tuesday.

Wilmot said the examination is in response to an earlier psychiatric examination performed for the defense. He and Toms would not discuss the findings of that examination.

Walker set Nov. 4 as the date for a hearing on pre-trial motions.

Those include motions by the prosecution to introduce statements that Teresa Cleary made to police three days before she was killed. According to court records, Teresa Cleary told police that William Cleary came to her house and threatened to kill her.

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

The prosecution also is seeking to introduce statements Cleary's former wife made in 1996 in her application for a protection from abuse order. According to a motion filed earlier this year by Wilmot, Cleary told the woman "that if she were ever unfaithful to him, he would shoot her and cut her throat."

If Cleary is convicted of first-degree murder, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

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, court records state.

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