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Trial delayed for W.Va. woman accused of shooting estranged husband

August 29, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- The trial for a woman accused of shooting her estranged husband to death in September 2007 was rescheduled Friday after attorneys said more evidence testing was needed and two key witnesses had scheduling conflicts with the original trial date next month.

The trial for Mario L. Decicio-Smith, 35, who was indicted in May on one count of first-degree murder, now is scheduled to begin Jan. 27, 2009.

Police allege Decicio-Smith shot Richard E. Amundson five times on Sept. 15, 2007. He was found facedown in the basement of the defendant's home at 210 Gussie Ave. with a rotisserie fork near his left hand, police had said.

In December 2007, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes agreed to allow the possibility of home confinement.

Wilkes concluded that it appeared Decicio-Smith was attempting to avoid her estranged husband when she moved to Berkeley County, where her father lives, from Casper, Wyo. Wilkes also noted she had a clean criminal record.

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Decicio-Smith has been on home confinement since January after posting bond, and B. Craig Manford, her defense attorney, asked Wilkes on Friday to modify the terms of her confinement to allow her to get a job because of family financial difficulties. Manford said that his client's father has become "somewhat ill."

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory V. Smith objected to Manford's motion, noting a person charged with murder ordinarily would not be permitted home confinement, let alone obtain employment.

"While the defendant may be experiencing financial hardships, the state could have kept her incarcerated to alleviate the existing problem that she is experiencing at this time ..." Smith said in a written response to Manford's motion.

Wilkes said he was leaning toward denying the motion by Manford, but might grant the request if the 23rd Judicial Circuit probation office "feels it's suitable." Wilkes did allow Manford to pursue some additional testing that would not exceed a level of cost recommended by state public defender services.

Manford proposed Decicio-Smith could be confined to her father's home in Gerrardstown, in southern Berkeley County, and said her sister would help her get employment.

In December, Manford said Decicio-Smith had left her husband under "stealthy" circumstances because of a troubled marriage.

"Once the FPOs (family protective orders) were in place, she got out of Dodge," Manford had said in presenting arguments for setting a bond for Decicio-Smith.

The last FPO in place in Wyoming expired in July 2007. Manford had said Amundson followed Decicio-Smith to Berkeley County.

When police arrived at Decicio-Smith's home on the day of the shooting, they found her sobbing and murmuring to herself in the living room. She was pointing a revolver to the left side of her head, police testified in the Decicio-Smith's preliminary hearing in magistrate court. The hammer was cocked and she was staring straight ahead.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of West Virginia determined that Amundson had two bullet wounds in the back of his head, one in the right shoulder, one on the left side of his chest and one in his left lower back.

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