Jury being picked in videotaped sex killing case

Monday, July 7, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Jury selection began Monday in the capital murder trial of a suburban Kansas City man accused in the 2006 videotaped sex killing of Marsha Spicer.

Attorneys are scheduled to spend the next 2 1/2 weeks culling through more than 420 potential jurors before opening statements in the trial of Richard D. Davis, the first death-penalty case heard by a jury in Jackson County in six years.

Davis, 43, is charged with 40 felonies, including murder, kidnapping and rape in the assault and death of Spicer, 41, in his Independence apartment and the kidnapping and assault of Michelle Huff-Ricci, 36.

His co-defendant and former girlfriend, Dena Riley, 42, is scheduled to go on trial in Jackson County next year.

Both Davis and Riley also are charged in Clay County with capital murder in the suffocation death of Huff-Ricci.

Federal prosecutors also have charged the duo in the kidnapping of a 5-year-old southeast Kansas girl related to Davis after they fled the Kansas City area.

The case attracted nationwide interest in 2006 when investigators said they found graphic videotapes in Davis and Riley's apartment of them having sex with and assaulting Spicer. The two then led authorities on a five-day chase, during which they briefly were named America's most wanted couple by the FBI.

Given the intense media coverage the case received, as well as the potential of the death penalty, court officials have had to increase their already careful procedures for selecting fair and impartial jurors.

Last month, the Jackson County Legislature set aside $130,000 to help pay for the jury selection process for Davis.

"It's certainly the largest jury pool that I can remember in the county," said County Executive Michael Sanders, who was county prosecutor when the crimes occurred.

Sanders said the nature of the crimes "screamed out for the death penalty" even though no one has been sentenced to death in Jackson County since 1999.

Police found Spicer's battered and nude body in a shallow grave in Lafayette County in May 2006. Autopsy results indicated she had been strangled.

News of the find led police to two women who shared stories of a man who like to choke women during sex. That led them to Davis and Riley, who denied knowing Spicer.

A search warrant for the couple's apartment found the videotapes, among other evidence.

By the time authorities issued arrest warrants for Davis and Riley, they had left the area.

Police later linked the two to Huff-Ricci, who had disappeared more than a month before Spicer's body was found.

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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