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Murder trial for Scott City man begins today

Monday, October 22, 2001

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. -- A murder trial begins today for a Scott City, Mo., man charged with killing his cousin's 57-year-old lover.

The first degree murder trial of Gary Wayne Biggs, 36, was moved to Pulaski County on a change of venue request.

Jury selection begins this morning, followed by opening arguments.

The body of Willie Mae Vasquez of Scott City was found Aug. 9, 2000, in a shallow grave near the Mississippi River in Scott County. She had been struck several times in the head with a hatchet and a shovel, police said.

Vasquez had been reported missing by her daughter a few weeks earlier.

On July 5, Charles "Scott" Biggs, 31, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Vasquez's death.

His plea to the lesser charge came in exchange for testimony against his cousin, Gary Biggs. Punishment for second-degree murder ranges from 10 years to life in prison. First-degree murder charges may be punished by the death penalty.

He said Vasquez and he had been sexually involved and he was afraid his girlfriend might find out.

During a day of fishing and drinking with Gary Biggs, the plan to kill Vasquez was hatched, he said in court. The pair got a hatchet from a relative's house and invited Vasquez to come fishing with them. After luring her to a deserted spot near the river, he said they killed her.

Scott Biggs initially told authorities he had brought Vasquez to fish on the Mississippi River when his cousin suddenly attacked her.

Gary Biggs will be prosecuted by lawyers from the state attorney general's office. After disagreements with the victim's family, the Scott County prosecutor's office had requested that the attorney general's office handle the case.

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