Cole County jury to be shipped in for Clay Waller murder trial

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Clay Waller is led out of the Cape Giardeau County Courthouse after his preliminary hearing Wednesday morning, July 25, 2012. Waller is charged with the murder of his wife Jacque who went missing June 1, 2011. (Adam Vogler)

Clay Waller, who faces charges of first-degree murder and two counts of tampering with evidence for his alleged role in the disappearance of his estranged wife Jacque, will go to trial Sept. 9 to 20 at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson.

During a review of Waller's case Monday, the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor's office and Waller's attorney, public defender Chris Davis, stipulated before Judge Benjamin Lewis that the trial could be held in Cape Girardeau County but with a jury brought in from Cole County. Lewis accepted the stipulation and set Waller's trial for September.

Waller, currently serving a five-year sentence in federal prison in Oakdale, La., for threatening his wife's sister over the Internet, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and to the two counts of evidence tampering at his August arraignment. One charge of tampering was for allegedly disposing of carpet that held Jacque's blood and the other was for the alleged disposal of her body.

Waller later filed a motion for change of venue, arguing that he couldn't receive a fair trial in Cape Girardeau County because of the publicity his case had received. But the stipulation now ensures that Waller will be tried here.

Ruby Rawson, mother of Jacque Waller, said in a telephone interview that she couldn't have hoped for anything more at this stage.

"We're thrilled that the trial is going to be here and not somewhere else," she said. "I couldn't imagine what it would be like having to travel somewhere else for it. It's been a long year for us, but we'll continue to get through it. Having the trial here will help."

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle agreed that it will be beneficial to keep the trial in Jackson.

"There's a lot of factors that go into a decision like this, such as the cost of sending the defendant and the prosecution team to another place to conduct a lengthy trial," he said. "Bringing in a jury from outside will be a lot more cost effective."

Swingle is also familiar with arguing in front of a jury sent from another county. In 2011, he went to Pemiscot County to select a jury for the Ryan Patterson trial that was being held in Cape Girardeau County and had the chosen jury members transferred. Patterson was ultimately convicted of the murders of Jamie Lynn Orman, her 15-year-old son Derrick and her unborn child.

Waller will receive a jury from Cole County under the authority of a state law that allows a judge to bring in jurors from a county that's not a part of the same judicial circuit or one that adjoins the judicial circuit where the case is being tried. Cole County's county seat is Jefferson City.

Lewis will hear the first set of pretrial motions in Waller's trial in February.

Jacque Waller was last seen June 1, 2011. Prosecutors say Clay Waller killed his wife during a fight over their pending divorce and hid her body and evidence of the crime. Searchers continue to look for her remains, with the most recent search happening earlier this month in Southern Illinois.

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

100 Court St., Jackson, MO

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