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Murder case detours to Indiana

(ran PC edition)

The defense seeks testimony from an Indiana woman that requires the accused to be present.

A prosecutor, a defense attorney, and a man charged with first-degree murder are scheduled to board a commercial airliner today for a one-day trip to Indiana on a last-minute evidence hunt.

Last week prosecutors insisted that if appointed defense attorney Bill Eble wanted to preserve an Indiana woman's testimony for trial, the suspect had to be present during questioning. Eble says the woman's testimony may clear his client.

That questioning is scheduled to take place in an Indiana county jail today, requiring prosecutor Phil Van Allen, Eble and his client, Michael Peter Fitzpatrick, to fly north, Van Allen said Monday.

Eble declined Monday to comment on the trip.

Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jon Powers, while he did not confirm or deny the trip, said proper security would be maintained in the event Fitzpatrick makes the journey. In the past, in an unrelated case, the Sheriff's Office said it would take four armed deputies in two patrol cars to escort an inmate charged with first-degree murder to a doctor's office.

Fitzpatrick, 38, is accused of killing Laura Lynn Romines, 28. She was found wandering half-naked along Parkway Boulevard in Land O'Lakes about 3:45 a.m. on Aug. 18, 1996. Her throat had been slashed and she had been raped and sodomized. She died weeks later at a Tampa hospital.

Fitzpatrick has been in jail since his arrest in February 1997.

Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if Fitzpatrick is convicted.

Fitzpatrick is scheduled to go to trial next Monday.