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Murder trial delayed again in Chambersburg

March 14, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A new witness for the prosecution has prompted another delay in the case of a Chambersburg man charged with stabbing his estranged wife to death more than 21/2 years ago.

The case of William Cleary, 31, of 137 Garfield St., on a charge of first-degree murder was to have gone to trial last week, but defense attorneys asked for the continuance to allow additional time to prepare in light of the new witness.

The woman was in court Wednesday prepared to testify in a pretrial hearing, but a defense motion to suppress statements she allegedly made to state police was withdrawn. Shortly after the hearing concluded, Judge John R. Walker issued an order impounding the suppression motion.

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"We characterize it as an extremely critical witness," Public Defender Michael Toms said after the hearing. He said the defense only became aware of the woman on Feb. 10 and her testimony "goes to the heart of our case."

"We have to assess our trial strategy and interview other people to see if there's anything we can impeach that witness with," Toms said.

Cleary has been in custody since July 6, 2002, when, according to Pennsylvania State Police, he stabbed 33-year-old Teresa Jean Cleary to death outside her apartment in Fayetteville, Pa. The killing was witnessed by a number of people, some of whom testified at William Cleary's preliminary hearing.

District Attorney John F. Nelson Wednesday said he could not comment on the suppression motion, except that the information the woman could provide the prosecution predates the killing.

Assistant District Attorney Timothy Wilmot said the prosecution learned earlier this year through another person that the woman might have information pertinent to the case. The information was provided to Cleary's attorneys the same day the prosecution received its report from the state police, he said.

Walker ruled on other issues in the case, including the results of a rape kit analysis requested by the defense. Wilmot questioned the relevance of the test results and the judge gave both sides time to prepare letters explaining why it should or should not be admitted into evidence.

The judge also ruled that some crime scene and autopsy photographs are admissable.

Defense attorney Andrew W. Norfleet is also asking that potential jurors be questioned about pretrial publicity during jury selection.

Walker said that Cleary's former wife, Sherry Rosenberry, cannot be called to testify for the prosecution about threats he allegedly made to her, except as a rebuttal witness if information about their relationship is presented by the defense.

Walker scheduled jury selection in the case for Monday, May 9, but did not schedule the date of the trial, which is expected to last about a week.

Cleary has received at least 14 continuances in his case, Wilmot said.

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