06/29/10 — Murder trail jury chosen

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Murder trail jury chosen

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 29, 2010 1:46 PM

A jury was selected late Monday in the murder trial of Brandon Lee Williams, who is accused of the murder of Silvia Benitez Morales.

Attorney Geoff Hulse is representing Williams, who was arrested a few months after Mrs. Morales' death on March 3, 2008.

Williams faces life in prison if convicted.

Hulse and Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge asked questions of the jury pool well past 5 p.m. on Monday, finally agreeing on the final two alternate jurors.

Williams was 23 when the murder took place, and he was a suspect from the beginning of the investigation, Sheriff Carey Winders has said.

Tying Williams to the actual crime proved difficult, and the Sheriff's Office increased the amount of reward money to $11,000 -- including a $5,000 pledge from an anonymous citizen -- in an attempt to get more information.

The reward money was never paid out, however, as the Sheriff's Office said it was able to gather evidence without the use of citizen tips.

Authorities believe Williams' motive was to steal money from Mrs. Morales, the mother of two children.

Later, additional charges, including attempted first-degree sexual offense and attempted first-degree rape, were added to Williams' bill of indictment.

Williams' arrest was unique in that it was the first in which detectives were required by law to record. A state law that took effect in 2008 made it mandatory for lawmen to audiotape interrogations of murder suspects.

The Sheriff's Office used a video recorder instead, because Winders said the practice would insulate them from possible future requirements to have questionings on video.

Lead investigator Detective Sgt. Tammy Odom and other detectives have not revealed what evidence they gathered while talking to Williams, only that the case "broke" when Williams was arrested and questioned in mid-June.

Opening statements from Delbridge and Hulse were expected to begin at 9 a.m. today in Wayne County Superior Court, with Judge Arnold Jones II presiding.