Judge postpones trial in S. Indiana murder case

By The Associated Press

NEW ALBANY — The first of two death penalty trials for a southern Indiana man accused of killing three women has been postponed until September to allow attorneys more time to prepare, but it won’t be moved to another location.

Floyd Superior Judge Susan Orth on Tuesday granted a motion by William Clyde Gibson’s attorneys to delay his trial in the death of family friend Christine Whitis until Sept. 23. Orth scheduled his second trial for Jan. 22 and denied a defense request for a change of venue in that case.

Instead, Orth ruled that juries for both trials would be selected from another Indiana county and brought to New Albany, The Courier-Journal in Louisville reported.

Gibson faces the death penalty in the slayings of Whitis, a 75-year-old Clarksville resident, and 35-year-old Stephanie Kirk of Charlestown. He’s also charged in the death of Port Orange, Fla., resident Karen Hodella, 44.

The strangled and mutilated body of Whitis was found in Gibson’s garage in New Albany on April 19, 2012. Kirk’s body was found buried in his backyard last spring.

Police say Gibson fatally stabbed Hodella in October 2002. Her body was found three months later near the Ohio River in Clarksville.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson isn’t seeking the death penalty in Hodella’s slaying.

Attorney J. Patrick Biggs, one of three public defenders appointed for Gibson, requested the delay in the Whitis trial, which had been scheduled for July, because he said the defense still needs time to review a transcript of police interviews and speak with witnesses.

“We’re doing the best we can ... (but) we can’t control who will talk to us,” Biggs told Orth.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen opposed the continuance, saying Gibson’s lawyers have had more than enough time to prepare.

Owen said after the hearing that the delay keeps the families of the victims on an “emotional roller coaster” as they seek justice.

“They get their hopes up,” Owen said. “They get prepared for it mentally. ... It’s just a tough thing for them” when the proceedings are delayed.

Whitis’s son, Mike, said he hopes the trial will bring closure over his mother’s death.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her,” he said.

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