Testimony begins Tuesday in Engel trial
A jury was selected Thursday afternoon for the trial of accused attempted murderer Fred Engel, with opening statements slated to begin Tuesday morning in Nevada County Superior Court.
A jury of seven men, five women and three male alternates was seated by 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Opening statements and testimony is scheduled to begin 9 a.m. Tuesday, continue through Thursday, and may extend to the following week.
Prosecutor Ron Wolfson and defense attorney Stephen Munkelt excused 27 jurors since the jury selection phase of the trial began.
Each attorney has the right to dismiss 20 jurors without giving a reason.
Wolfson excused 11, and Munkelt dismissed 16.
The rest were excused by Judge Robert Tamietti for various hardships, scheduling conflicts and personal issues.
The first phase of the trial will determine Engel’s guilt or innocence. If the jury finds Engel guilty, a second phase – with the same jurors – would ensue to determine whether Engel was sane during the alleged crime.
Engel pleaded innocent by reason of insanity on Aug. 5, 2005, to charges of attempted murder with premeditation and arson of an inhabited dwelling.
He is accused of stabbing Susan Wallace, 62, repeatedly in the neck and abdomen then using gasoline to set her house on fire.
After cleaning Wallace’s rugs in April 2005 for his former employer, Chem-Dry of the Gold Country, Engel allegedly returned after midnight May 7, slashed her throat and stabbed her in the colon and kidney.
He also allegedly killed two of her dogs, poured gasoline in the house and set it on fire.
Wallace, bleeding profusely, reportedly escaped to a neighbor’s house.
Engel allegedly was using methamphetamine at the time.
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion .com or call 477-4236.
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