(Neb)-"Body In A Barrel" Trial Beginning In Bridgeport
Opening arguments are set for 8:30 this morning in Bridgeport in the 1st-degree murder trial of 25-year old Zachary Mueller of Bridgeport, accused of killing a Colorado man and stuffing his body into a barrel that was later found floating in a creek near Bayard. A week has been set aside for the trial.
Attorneys for both sides and Morrill County District Judge Leo Dobrovolny began yesterday morning winnowing down a pool of 120 potential jurors into a 12-member jury panel with 2 alternates and they completed the process just before 4:30.
Most of the prospective jurors who were dismissed were rejected because they said they had already formed an opinion on whether Mueller was guilty, had direct knowledge of or relationships with one or more potential witnesses, or couldn't handle the graphic evidence to be presented. The state is not seeking the death penalty for Mueller, so that issue did not arise.
Before jury selection began, Judge Dobrovolny denied a defense motion for a change of venue. Mueller's attorney argued he couldn't get a fair trial in Bridgeport because of the extensive publicity for the case, but Dobrovolny disagreed.
The body of 33-year old 33-year-old Pedro Dominguez of Greeley was fully clothed and wrapped in a bedsheet when a farmer found it inside a sealed barrel he'd fished out of a creek, intending to use as a burn barrel. An autopsy listed the cause of death as a gunshot in the back of the head. More than 2 dozen potential witnesses have been listed for the trial.
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