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Trial opens in Land O'Lakes woman's slaying

DADE CITY — The gunshot was loud enough to make Linda Brown break from her dish washing.

Even in the rural area near Ehren Cutoff where echoes of far-off gunfire from hunters is common, this stood out. She gazed into the pasture where her husband was working to make sure he was all right. He called to her as he walked toward the home.

"Boy, that was a loud shot," she remembered him saying.

He said it seemed to come from across Bahia Loop where Diane Yeager-Lombard, 51, lived with her daughter, Erica Wiggins. Brown picked up the phone and called over to the house, but no one answered.

The Browns were en route to church the next morning, May 4, 2008, when her husband remarked that Yeager-Lombard looked like she was on her front porch sunbathing.

"Little did we know," Brown told a Dade City courtroom Tuesday morning, "she was dead laying on her porch."

Tuesday marked the opening in the first-degree murder trial of Justo Arturo Moreno-Gonzalez, accused of shooting Yeager-Lombard in the head on May 3, 2008.

Prosecutors Manny Garcia and Stacey Sumner say Moreno-Gonzalez, then 45, had been working in Yeager-Lombard's neighborhood installing cable lines and offered to help spread dirt on her property. He developed an infatuation with Yeager-Lombard, which was rebuffed — a motive for the killing, authorities said. But detectives couldn't find him after the shooting and heard reports he had fled to Mexico. Soon after, Moreno-Gonzalez's truck was found abandoned at an El Tigre gas station in Texas.

Authorities found him 2 1/2 years later working as a soda vendor in the southern Mexican town of Melchor Ocampo. He was later extradited to Pasco County.

While Moreno-Gonzalez listened with the help of headphones and a Spanish interpreter, Erica Wiggins recalled how her mother called him only "Arturo." She said her mother grew wary of him the more he showed up — enough that Wiggins decided to intervene.

"You're making us uncomfortable," she remembered she told him. "You're scaring my mother. Please leave us alone."

He said "okay," and "spun off in his truck," Wiggins said.

Jose Soto, who lived on a nearby street, testified about finding Yeager-Lombard.

He was driving by and saw her on the porch, but something didn't look right. He called to her twice but got no response. He parked, walked up to the house until he saw the wound to her head. Then he ran to get help.

Wiggins dabbed her eyes while Sumner pulled that time of her life out in testimony. She was 20 and spent most of her time between college classes, work and her boyfriend's home. Yeager-Lombard would tease that her daughter used her home only as a flop house.

"I regret it now," Wiggins said, frowning. "I wish I had spent more time with her."

The trial continues today.

Trial opens in Land O'Lakes woman's slaying 05/06/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 7:55pm]
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