Murder-trial opening statements due

February 01, 2006

Opening statements are scheduled to begin this morning in the Howard County Circuit Court trial of a Columbia woman accused of strangling her friend, a fellow clinical psychology doctoral student.

Melissa Burch Harton, 26, of the 5600 block of Columbia Road, is charged with first-degree murder in Natasha Bacchus' death.

On Monday, lawyers began selecting a jury to hear the case against Harton, who police say confessed in a six-hour police interview to strangling Bacchus, 31, of Stewartstown, Pa., after a night of drinking and an argument.

Harton told police the two argued at the entrance to Centennial Park. Bacchus' body was discovered March 9 on the parking lot of the Dorsey Hall pool.

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