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Defense rests in trial concerning 1987 Largo bar slaying

Defense attorneys in the murder trial of Jeffrey M. Lobik rested Thursday without calling their client to the stand.

But the jury had already heard from him.

Jurors listened earlier in the day to the tape of Lobik's hour-long interview with police investigators in 2004.

Lobik told them he lived part of his life in a drug-filled haze.

"I couldn't tell you what happened from the time I was 17 to the time I was 21," he said.

Lobik, who was 20 when bartender Susan Heyliger was killed in 1987, said he couldn't remember what he told officers when he was first questioned in the case.

"I know I was in the attic and I know I smoked crack," he said in 2004.

And that recollection proved costly.

That's because Lobik originally told officers he had never been in the attic. After changing his story, the 41-year-old construction worker was arrested in 2005.

Lobik faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Heyliger, who worked at the Country Club Lounge in Largo.

Heyliger's body was found in the early morning of June 7, 1987, behind the bar where she worked. Her throat was slit. Prosecutors believe Lobik hid in the ceiling, attacked Heyliger and stole $600 from the cash register.

Largo police Sgt. Kelly Goswick, the lead investigator, questioned Lobik after the incident.

Goswick said Lobik's shoes matched the tread design on shoe prints found at the lounge.

Divers searched a nearby lake, but the murder weapon was never recovered, Goswick said. Neither was Heyliger's purse.

Largo police Detective Joseph Coyle testified that he questioned Lobik in 2004, telling him statements were lost and needed to be retaken.

"You know, you give us cases that old, people forget stuff, papers get left out, things get lost," Coyle said.

On the tape, Lobik said he wasn't at the bar after 1 a.m. although witnesses placed him going into the bathroom 30 minutes later.

"I know I had nothing to do with what happened," he said.

Lobik told Coyle he left the bar shortly after coming down from the crawl space and rode his bike home.

In testimony, Coyle said he lied about the lost statements, citing it as an investigation tactic.

Defense attorney Kandice Friesen said Coyle found no new evidence in the case except Lobik's change in statement. All the evidence is circumstantial, she said.

The defense's case consisted of one sentence. Friesen entered three pieces of evidence and with that, said the defense rested.

Closing arguments start today.

Jackie Alexander can be reached at jdalexander@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Defense rests in trial concerning 1987 Largo bar slaying 07/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 28, 2008 10:08am]
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