Selection Of Phelps Jury Starts

The jury selection process began for the trial of Brandon Michael Phelps, which is set to begin next week.

Phelps, of 1281 Birch St., Bellaire, is charged with aggravated murder committed in the course of rape, aggravated burglary, burglary and trespassing. The murder charge carries a death penalty specification.

His co-defendant, Devin Wayne Fuller, 21, 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire, was sentenced earlier this month to life without parole after a jury found him guilty on charges of aggravated murder committed in the course of burglary, one count of aggravated burglary and one count of burglary.

Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato will preside over Phelps’ trial.

The charges stem from a June 30, 2012 incident in which Lydia Ashworth, 92, was found murdered in her West Bellaire home.

Phelps recently asked for a change of venue on the grounds that extensive pre-trial publicity will make the process of obtaining a fair trial difficult. The motion was denied, though it will be considered if a jury can not be seated.

More than 130 potential jurors met Thursday and Friday. Further examination of the jury pool will begin next week.

The court will determine if each potential juror is death-qualified and has the ability to decide whether Phelps should be sentenced to the death penalty if he is found guilty. Fregiato said he expects the process to take slightly longer for each juror, but the overall process should be shorter.

Meanwhile, prosecution and defense continue to organize evidence and experts as they are ready to make their respective cases.