NEW PORT RICHEY — Desiree Patton remembers when her missing friend finally turned up on July 14, 2005.
Andrea White's body was found miles from home, lying in some woods in a pool of rainwater. Patton drove out there to see it for herself, and then, it hit her: David Andrew White, the victim's husband, had brought her here before.
"Once I saw where her body was located, I thought this is astronomical," Patton testified on Tuesday. "I've been here before. This is the place David worked."
The husband is on trial this week for second-degree murder. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Piece by piece, the state on Tuesday started assembling its circumstantial evidence against White, 40.
There is no forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony against him. Medical experts cannot even definitively say Andrea White, a 33-year-old mother of four, was murdered.
But they will testify this week that they believe she was somehow asphyxiated. And the circumstances of her death — the wife was dressed for bed yet found miles from home; the husband's conflicting stories; and his move to New York on the day her body was found — led authorities to believe he took her life.
White's defense: his wife stormed out of their house on her own; she was a diabetic who could have died of natural causes; and his trip to New York had been planned in advance.
In the weeks before her death, Andrea White told Patton her marriage was crumbling.
"David said he was afraid she was going to kill him," Patton testified, "and she said 'Are you kidding? I'm afraid you're going to kill me.' "
It was Patton who reported Andrea White missing July 11, 2005. When Patton went to her friend's house, she said she found David White sitting alone, rocking back and forth. Patton said she found Andrea White's purse in the closet, along with the victim's emergency insulin kit that she never left behind.
The victim's sister, Rhonda Draper, testified that she and mother Janice Friend flew in from Arkansas after her sister had gone missing. They had to break into the Whites' home because their key no longer worked. David White and the children were already gone.
Draper said the couple's bed was made, but the children' beds were in "disarray."
There was dirty laundry everywhere — except for some freshly laundered pillows and blankets.
"Did you touch the pillows?" Halkitis asked.
"They were wet," the victim's sister said.
Jurors also saw a videotape of the crime scene. The victim lay sprawled on her back, her body badly bloated and decomposed. Her shirt was pulled over her chest. The state believes she was dumped there.
The defense suggested the authorities rushed to declare Andrea White's death suspicious and to implicate her husband.
But Pasco sheriff's Detective Lisa Mazza testified that, after looking at the crime scene, her instincts told her this was no natural death.
"The circumstances of what happened to her and where she was found," Mazza said, "yes, that led me to believe she had been murdered."