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Ronald Wrisinger’s first-degree murder trial will move to the Eighth Circuit Court in Carroll County, starting Aug. 4.
Judge David H. Miller granted a change-of-venue Wednesday morning sought by Wrisinger’s attorney, John O’Connor, who feels Wrisinger would not receive a fair trial with the case’s notoriety in Ray County.
O’Connor has also filed a motion for a speedy trial, which Miller considered in setting the Aug. 4 date for Wrisinger’s next appearance. Miller made the ruling despite a counter-argument by Ray County Prosecutor Jim Thompson that an early 2010 appearance would give both sides more time to handle large amounts of depositions and evidence.
“It’s been a long time,” O’Connor said. “People’s memories aren’t getting any better. Mr. Wrisinger . . . wants this resolved as quick as possible.”
O’Connor also filed a motion for a bill of particulars, in which the prosecution would have to detail the exact manner in which they believe Wrisinger killed his wife Sherry and then-16-year-old daughter Johnna in 1986. Thompson believes the bill of particulars is a precaution to aid a potential future appeal and expressed his continued confidence in a solid case against Wrisinger.
Thompson and authorities have continued to lead the search for Sherry and Johnna’s bodies.
“Until we find the bodies, we’ll never quit looking,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter if the trial is tomorrow, next month or last week. As long as we have a fresh lead to look for, we’re going to look for the bodies.”
Nor did either side express concern that Miller, a former public defender overseeing his first jury trial for murder as a judge, would continue to preside over the case despite the change in venue.
“I’ve seen prosecutors who’ve been tough on prosecutors and I’ve seen public defenders tough on public defenders,” O’Connor said.
As proceedings have moved forward since Wrisinger’s May arrest, the case has received increased media attention as far as the Kansas City metro area, but both Thompson and Miller feel Carroll County will still provide a fair environment for the trial, free from prejudices.
O’Connor himself is no stranger to handling cases under media scrutiny. He defended Lisa Montgomery, who cut Skidmore, Mo., woman Bobbie Jo Stinnett’s baby from her womb and left her to die in her home, in 2007 against federal kidnapping charges. Montgomery was found guilty and sentenced to die in a trial that received national attention.
Thompson has chosen not to seek the death penalty for Wrisinger, if found guilty.
He said the focus he needs in these kinds of cases has been developed throughout his career.
“Probably early in my career, it was tougher (to block out the media pressure),” O’Connor said. “But now, it’s just part of what goes on. (Reporters) have a job to do and I’ve got a job to do, so I respect the job they have and they respect the job I have.”
Photo: Ronald Wrisinger is escorted by Major Garry Bush of the Ray County Sheriff’s Department out of Ray County Courthouse yesterday morning after his court appearance which granted him a change of venue in his case. (Photo by Russ Green/The Daily News)