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Widow will testify in murder trial

Joyce Hernandez, who is charged with killing her husband two years ago and stowing his body in the trunk of his car, plans to take the stand at her murder trial this week.

"She's going to testify, I'll tell you right now," attorney Arthur Eggers said to prospective jurors Monday.

He made the comment while quizzing jurors on whether they would judge Mrs. Hernandez on an extramarital affair near the time of the slaying.

Though such an affair may be morally wrong, the fact she had one should not affect deliberations on whether she committed murder, he said.

Would-be jurors assured the defense lawyer they would keep the two issues separate.

Prosecutors also offered a hint about their game plan.

Assistant State Attorney Donald Scaglione asked jurors whether they would be able to find somebody guilty of murder if the person had been involved in a killing but hadn't pulled the trigger.

The question was hypothetical, but it suggests that authorities think others may have been involved in the slaying of Ronnie Hernandez.

Detectives have not commented on that issue, saying only that their investigation continues.

By the end of the trial's opening day, Monday, six jurors and an alternate had been picked.

Opening arguments and testimony are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. today at the Hernando County Courthouse in Brooksville.

Hernandez, 32, was found dead in the trunk of his white Ford LTD in June 1992 in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn at Weeki Wachee. A .22-caliber bullet was in his head.

His body was badly decomposed, but authorities identified him using a gold ring on his finger and an earring in one ear.

His wife had reported him missing several days earlier. She said he went out to buy beer and never came back, authorities said.

The case went unsolved for nearly two years.

Then Mrs. Hernandez, 26, who used to live with her husband at 183 Hague Court in Spring Hill, was arrested in May in Greenlawn, N.Y., and brought to Hernando County.

Authorities claim there were inconsistencies in her early versions of what happened before her husband disappeared.

They also say a blood-soaked towel found in the car trunk was from a matching set at the Hernandez house, and that blood stains were found in the kitchen.

They said there were blood spots on the overhead light, blood smears on the kitchen baseboards, and stains in a flower bed and drain outside, as if someone had hosed down the patio.

According to the Sheriff's Office, a friend of the couple has identified a small rug in the car trunk as one from the Hernandez home.

Defense attorney Eggers has contended that such evidence is circumstantial and does not tie his client to the crime.

Family members of the dead man and his wife were in court Monday.

Prosecutors said they expect the trial to be over Friday.

They said they will not seek the death penalty if Mrs. Hernandez is convicted.

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