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Trial begins for Clearwater man accused of stabbing and shooting his mother

LARGO — Russell L. Freeman Jr. is accused of killing his own mother, and a prosecutor on Tuesday outlined the horrifying details.

Freeman, who was 28 at the time, stabbed his mother, Diane Freeman, repeatedly in the kitchen of their Clearwater house, Assistant State Attorney Rene Bauer said. She had some 30 wounds, Bauer said. The tip of a knife blade broke off and lodged near her spine

It didn't end there. Bauer said Freeman dragged his mother out of the kitchen, through a dining area and into a back bedroom, where he shot her five times in the head with a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun.

And then, authorities say, he set fire to the house at 1150 Palm Bluff St. — a house his father had built with his own hands.

"Russell Freeman is guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder," Bauer said of the February 2006 crime.

But in all the detail, there was one thing she did not attempt to explain, and which may never be known: Why would Freeman kill his own mother?

He didn't, Assistant Public Defender Paula Shea told jurors.

Shea said there are gaping holes in the state's case. For example, a witness who saw Freeman right after the killing did not see blood on his clothing or smell bleach on him – which you would expect of the killer, because prosecutors maintain he tried to clean up the crime scene.

Once the Clearwater Fire Department came into the house to fight the fire, "that crime scene changed," Shea added.

Also, a back window would have allowed someone else to come in and out of the house without being seen by neighbors, Shea said. And while it's true that the state has DNA evidence linking Freeman to the crime scene, that's hardly surprising considering that he lived there too.

Prosecutors, however, point to extensive forensic evidence, right down to what they said were Freeman's bloody footprints in the bathroom — where he unsuccessfully tried to flush his bloody socks down the toilet.

They said a drop of blood later found on Freeman's jeans matched his mother's blood.

Both attorneys finished opening statements Tuesday, and the state began calling witnesses to testify.

Although court records indicate Freeman has had mental health issues in the past, including having previously been found mentally incompetent, his attorneys have not indicated any intention of relying on an insanity defense.

Trial begins for Clearwater man accused of stabbing and shooting his mother 10/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 7:46pm]
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