NEW PORT RICHEY — Andrea White was found dead on July 14, 2005. She was barefoot, dressed for bed — and found submerged in a pond miles from home.
The state called it murder. Its case against husband David Andrew White starts today.
But the state will try him without any physical evidence linking the husband to his wife's death, the defense told the jury Monday, nor any eyewitness testimony.
The state cannot even say for sure how she died, Assistant Public Defender Dean Livermore told jurors, or that her death was a criminal act.
"The evidence in this case will not show how she died, where she died or how she got there," he said. "The evidence you will hear from the medical examiner in this case excludes all manners of death. She wasn't shot, there was no stabbing or hanging or beating.
"There is no indication of a blow to the throat, no indication of any injury at all."
The prosecution has conceded as much: There is no direct evidence that White killed his wife. So the state points to the circumstantial evidence, that White acted and behaved suspiciously during the disappearance of his wife and the discovery of her body.
Livermore said that can be explained thusly:
"David White acted as a man who knew that the end of his marriage was near and his wife had left him."
White, 40, faces life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Andrea White was 33, a mother of four.
Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis told jurors that the Whites' marriage was ready to explode: "You'll hear that the relationship between Andrea White and this defendant was constantly in strife."
Andrea White's body was so damaged by water and time that medical experts cannot say for sure how she died. But they think they know how she died: She was suffocated.
"(The medical examiner) opines that it is consistent with asphyxiation," Halkitis said. "But because of her decomposition, laying out there in her night clothing for four days, he can't give us any more (reason) than homicidal violence by unknown origin."
That means authorities believe Andrea White was killed because she could not have ended up where she did the way she did unless a crime had occurred.
She would not have left home dressed as she did, without insulin shots she has needed since age 14, nor would she have ended up where she did unless she was left there.
Authorities say David White has told several different stories about how his wife walked out on him and their two daughters — barefoot, without her driver's license or credit cards — and why he moved to New York on the day her body was found. He didn't even report her missing, the state said.
"Remember every different story that this defendant tells," Halkitis said, "and remember that you're going to hear that the only concerns on this defendant's mind were: 'I've got to get custody of my children and I've got to get away.' "
But Livermore told jurors that the only evidence in the case bolsters his client's story. The lack of forensic evidence, the lawyer said, should exonerate White.
"The evidence will show that there was a plan to go to New York, and when he left, he was coming back … to begin the divorce proceedings," the public defender said. "There is no and there will be no evidence in this case implicating David White in the murder of his wife.
"The scientific evidence excludes him."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.