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Father to stand trial in family's slaying

It's been more than two years since Debra Pautauros and her 3-year-old son were stabbed to death in their Port Richey home.

Despite the time that's gone by, the crime still weighs heavily on the mind of Bob Osolinski, who lives across the street and used to sing Polish lullabies to the boy.

"There are some things that still have me puzzled," said Osolinski. "We're still in a state of shock."

Authorities charged Pautauros' husband, James, with the killings.

His case is set for trial in February. Osolinski looks forward to the court date. He plans to watch and hopes the proceedings will shed some light on the killings.

"We couldn't believe it happened," said Osolinski. "Why he would do that to the boy, I don't know. I can't fathom why he took his boy's life."

Pautauros is one of several people awaiting trial in Pasco murder cases.

Although high-profile cases have been scarce at the West Pasco Judicial Center in recent months _ there hasn't been a murder trial since early June _ prosecutors expect that will change with the new year.

"Come February, March and April, we'll have them bang, bang, bang," said Assistant State Attorney Michael Halkitis.

Also scheduled for trial in early 1999:

+ Alvin Morton, who was convicted in the 1992 slaying of a 75-year-old grandmother and her 55-year-old son. Morton, who cut off the man's right pinkie finger during the crime, was sentenced to death by a Pasco jury.

But the state Supreme Court overturned the sentence, ruling that prosecutors had made statements during closing arguments that jurors never should have heard.

On Jan. 25, the court will conduct a resentencing hearing, during which jurors will hear testimony on whether Morton should receive the death penalty or lesser punishment. A judge will make a final decision on the sentence after taking the jury's recommendation into account.

+ David Salyer, accused of fatally stabbing a friend in a cooking argument on Christmas Day in 1997. Police say Salyer argued with the host of a holiday party on Hays Road in Hudson as the two prepared dinner. Then Salyer stabbed 37-year-old Daniel Marie in the chest with a butcher knife, according to deputies.

Salyer is charged with second-degree murder. His trial had been set for Jan. 11 but may be postponed while authorities try to track down a witness.

+ Vincent Rizzi, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his live-in girlfriend, Tanya Hillerud. Hillerud, a server at Hooter's, died June 2, and Rizzi told investigators that the shooting was the result of horseplay with a .45-caliber pistol. He was initially charged with manslaughter, but a grand jury later handed up an indictment accusing him of intentionally killing Hillerud.

Rizzi's trial is scheduled for April.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.