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Missing witness delays wife's murder trial

Linda Weeks talks with her attorney, Charles Lykes, before jury selection Tuesday at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center. Weeks is accused of stabbing her husband 28 times after learning he was having an affair with a woman half his age.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Linda Weeks talks with her attorney, Charles Lykes, before jury selection Tuesday at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center. Weeks is accused of stabbing her husband 28 times after learning he was having an affair with a woman half his age.

LARGO — A long-delayed murder trial was delayed even longer Tuesday after a key witness was misplaced.

Linda Weeks, 62, was scheduled to stand trial in the 2007 stabbing of her estranged husband, Martin Weeks, 61.

But the Palm Harbor woman's trial stopped midway through jury selection when prosecutors realized a crucial witness was six hours away in Franklin County to testify in another case.

"There's an essential witness that is unavailable that became unavailable just a few minutes ago," Judge Thane Covert told jurors as he dismissed them.

The witness, Elizabeth Johnston, was being held last week in the Pinellas County Jail on charges unrelated to Weeks' case. Prosecutors weren't alerted when she was transported to Franklin County and thought she was still in jail Tuesday.

"We didn't even know about the proceeding up there until just now," Prosecutor Kendall Davidson said.

Davidson wouldn't say what testimony Elizabeth Johnston is expected to provide. The nature of the Franklin County case was unclear Tuesday.

In Johnston's absence, Covert set a trial date for August, when a new jury will be selected.

Weeks, who has been held in lieu of $200,000 bail since her arrest in May 2008, cried as Covert rescheduled her trial.

Her first lawyer stepped down from the case in January because of a conflict of interest. New attorney Charles Lykes was appointed to the case. Other issues with witnesses also have pushed the trial date back.

"She was upset," Lykes said. "She's been here three years."

Jury selection began at 10 a.m. with 45 potential jurors. Two were dismissed before a lunch recess, while the remaining 43 were questioned until about 3 p.m. when it became clear Johnston wasn't in the jail.

Weeks' 81-year-old mother, Denese Tillery, said she was frustrated the trial was delayed.

"It has been a living hell for every one of us," she said. "All they've had is pretrials and pretrials and pretrials.

"We just want to get it over with."

Tillery said she is convinced her daughter is innocent.

Police say Weeks stabbed her husband 28 times in June 2007. When he didn't show up for work, his boss came to check on him and found his body in the driveway of his home near Clearwater.

The couple had separated after Linda Weeks learned her husband was having an affair. A few weeks before the murder, Linda Weeks was arrested for punching her husband hard enough that she broke her hand. She also told an officer that she should have shot him, authorities reported.

But the couple began talking again shortly after, prosecutors said. Linda Weeks told police she came to his house for dinner the night he died. She said she left while it was still daylight, but neighbors said they heard the pair arguing about 8:45 p.m.

Police arrested her after they found her DNA under Martin Weeks' fingernails. She is charged with second-degree murder.

Missing witness delays wife's murder trial 06/15/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 11:04pm]
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