Jurors visit sites linked to slaying
One juror was dismissed before the trial started.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Dennis Reed, on trial for his life, told the judge he had no interest in visiting the site where his ex-girlfriend was found dead just over six years ago.
Reed, 37, was present Friday for opening statements in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, where he could receive the death penalty if convicted in the homicide of Wendy Miller.
Miller’s body was found Dec. 23, 2001, in a wooded area off Neshannock Boulevard Extension with a gunshot wound to the back of her head.
After hearing an opening statement from Assistant District Attorney Tom Minett, jurors were to be taken to Miller’s Sankey Street apartment and then to the area where her body was found.
Reed was entitled to go along with the jury as part of his defense but declined.
“I can’t say I’m familiar with those locations,” Reed told Minett when he read off the list of locations.
Minett said district attorney’s office intends to show jurors Miller’s apartment where they say Reed showed up sometime overnight on Dec. 16, 2001, and woke Miller, 28, and her three children. A fourth child Miller and Reed had together was staying with one of Miller’s relatives that night, he said.
Miller’s then 8-year-old daughter will testify that Reed punched her mother and argued with Miller about a protection-from-abuse order she had sought against Reed, Minett said. The prosecutor said the child will tell the jury that Miller and Reed left for a few minutes and then returned to the apartment where all the children were ordered to dress and get in Miller’s sport-utility vehicle.
According to prosecutors, the girl recalls driving past New Castle High School and to the Neshannock Village public housing complex with her siblings, Reed and her mother. Reed and her mother then got out of the car.
“She’s going to tell you about a shotgun and then she sees them walk off. That’s the last time Wendy Miller is seen alive,” Minett said.
The youngsters then spent the next week in the vehicle with Reed as he drove around Butler and New Castle, Minett said.
The children told police and family they were often told to duck down and were not allowed to use bathroom facilities but had to urinate just outside the vehicle. Reed also is charged with kidnapping the youngsters.
Reed was eventually spotted by Butler Police and arrested. While taking him into custody, Butler Police found a weapon and cocaine. Reed was eventually convicted on drug and gun charges in Butler and is now serving a three-to-10-year state prison sentence.
Reed’s defense attorney Randall Hetrick of Mercer declined to give an opening statement. He is entitled to give one before starting his defense.
One juror was dismissed before the start of trial when she revealed that her sister-in-law by marriage is related to Miller.
The woman told the court she was unaware of the relationship when questioned last week by attorneys. An alternate juror was moved into her spot. Three more alternates remain.
Prosecutors said they expect Reed’s trial to last one week.