More than nine years after Irvington handyman John Ruhs was found dead on a dirt road in Finksburg, the murder trial of one of the men accused in the slaying, Cordell Albert Patton, began with a visit by jurors to the the isolated crime scene.
Opening statements by prosecutor David Daggett and defense attorney Michael Kaminkow were postponed a day by Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who ordered that the panel of nine women and six men visit the Finksburg site where Ruhs' body was discovered March 27, 1987.
The 15 jurors stood at Murray Road and Clarho Circle and looked at a yellow rectangle painted on the nearby dirt road by officials to mark the scene of the shotgun slaying.
Meanwhile, Daggett told them that a witness living in a nearby house now hidden by tall pine trees will testify about what he saw nine years ago.
Jurors were told the yellow paint showed where the victim was found in his car, that had its headlights shining into the woods to the southeast.
After returning, Judge Burns held the jurors out of the courtroom while he heard testimony that one of the 15 jurors was possibly biased.
A state police investigator and a relative of the defendant had told Daggett and Kaminkow about comments, apparently from the son of an alternate juror, that they overheared during the lunch break in the halls of the county courthouse.
When the judge learned that a young man had said aloud that no matter the evidence, "the guy's guilty," he dismissed the alternate juror.
Judge Burns also ruled in favor of the defense on two motions. The judge said prosecutors may not elicit testimony that Patton purchased five rifles between 1978 and 1981, nearly seven years before Ruhs was slain with a shotgun.
The judge also ruled that Kaminkow may cross-examine Patton's former wife, Dianna, about her role in a 1994 arson. Kaminkow said he wanted to show that the woman has a history of offering testimony in behalf of prosecutors in exchange for agreements of immunity.
When the trial resumes today, Daggett is expected to try to convince the jury that John Ruhs was killed because he had dated Dianna Patton within two months after the Pattons separated in 1987.
In December, Stephen Andrew LuCado, 41, who lives in Norfolk, Va., pleaded guilty to helping Cordell Patton kill Ruhs, 46.
Under the terms of a a plea arrangement, LuCado will serve no more than 13 years of a 35-year prison sentence on condition that he testify against Cordell Patton.