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June 20, 2014

Murder trial may go this fall

MALONE — Angela Ball’s murder trial will likely take place this fall, and Franklin County’s public defender wants $15,000 to hire an expert witness for it.

The 30-year-old Saranac Lake woman is charged with second-degree murder in the beating and stabbing death of Ward Guy Wilbur on Nov. 26, 2013.

Wilbur, 65, of Lake Placid, was found dead in Ball’s apartment at 19 Morris Way in Saranac Lake.

An autopsy revealed he died of blunt-force trauma and stab wounds, and a baseball bat and knife were taken into evidence.

MENTAL-HEALTH EXPERT

Public Defender Thomas Soucia told legislators on Thursday that he needs to have an expert mental-health professional evaluate Ball and then testify about the findings in future court proceedings.

But, he said, he doesn’t have enough money in the office budget to pay for it.

“There’s no way I can squeeze $15,000 (from the budget), and it will probably be more,” he said. “It will be more like $20,000 before it’s all said and done.”

Soucia said he has a series of motions pending before County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr. that are sealed, but he said the trial could begin in late fall.

He said he may be able to find a cheaper expert to use, but he doesn’t have the time to do that research.

$5,000 GRANT

Plus, the public defender said he spoke with his counterparts in neighboring counties who recommended the expert from Rochester he hopes to engage.

Soucia declined to name the man until a contract is signed.

He said there is about $5,000 available in a recent grant his office received that could go toward part of the expert defense witness, and that will be used if he goes over the initial $15,000 he hopes the county will provide.

That paperwork is expected to be offered for approval at the next County Legislature meeting, set for July 3.

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