The prosecution's case in the murder trial of Ernest Troy Freeby, the Lansford man charged with killing his estranged wife, was heavily reliant on forensic evidence.
When the Carbon County murder trial began three weeks ago, District Attorney Gary F. Dobias called it a "search for the truth" during his opening argument. Last night, the 12-person jury believed that Dobias had successfully proved his case and brought a first degree guilty verdict against Freeby.
The evidence in this trial was vastly different from a murder case Dobias prosecuted in 2006. In that instance, Derek G. Schock, a then 20-year-old Lehighton man, was convicted of killing his mother, a crime which Dobias then called "one of the most brutal and vicious attacks I have seen in 25 years as a prosecutor."
Just an hour before that trial was to start in Carbon County Court, Schock pleaded guilty, thus avoiding a jury trial and a possible death penalty if convicted. He was sentenced by Judge Nanovic to life in prison without parole in that case, the same penalty which Freeby now faces.
While there was a body in that gruesome murder case six years ago, the Commonwealth's case in the Freeby murder trial was dependent on forensic experts and key prosecution witnesses.
The large quantity of blood stains found in the coal bin in the basement of Freeby's home, which matched victim Edwina Onyango's DNA, was crucial. So too was the dramatic testimony of Freeby's ex-girlfriend, who told the jury 11 days ago that Freeby once remarked that the only way he was going to get out of his marriage to Onyango was by killing her. Dobias thus convinced the jurors that by connecting the dots, they could reach no other conclusion than that Freeby was the guilty perpetrator.
The jury did not accept the defense team's arguments that Edwina Onyango had multiple identities disappearing without telling friends or family and that she may still be alive.
When, after six hours of deliberation, the jurors returned with their guilty verdict, many sympathetic to the Onyango family let out their emotions.
Relieved that the courtroom ordeal had ended, one family member said afterward that she was thankful Edwina Onyango can finally rest in peace.
By Jim Zbick