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Legal delays

Published January 13. 2012 05:01PM

The murder trial of a Lansford man was delayed by legal issues Thursday, resulting in only one witness being heard and an early recess of the proceeding.

President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II recessed the trial of Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, after almost the entire morning was taken up by legal arguments in his chambers. The jury panel, which reported at 8:45 a.m., sat in the deliberation room until about 11:55 a.m. before it was brought into the courtroom and told by Nanovic that the proceeding was delayed because he had to deal with some legal issues raised by counsel.

It was learned that the defense for Freeby, public defenders Paul Levy and George Dydynsky, filed a motion Thursday morning concerning an expert witness to be called by District Attorney Gary F. Dobias.

The argument over that motion consumed the entire morning.

When the jury did return, it heard testimony from Eric Bicking, a unit manager for the fraud department of Capital One Bank, based in Richmond, Va.

Freeby is accused of killing his estranged wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34. Prosecutors said he killed her on Dec. 9, 2007, at his home in Lansford. Her body has never been found.

Bicking's testimony centered on a Capital One credit card issued to Onyango in July 2000. Bicking had transaction records for the card for the period of April 2006 to July 2008.

Bicking said the records indicated that the card was used at a Sheetz store in Whitehall about 11:49 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2007, the day she went missing. He said it was used again on Dec. 11 at the PennMart in Lansford on two occasions. It was used later in the week at the PennMart store and an Exxon station in Lehighton on Dec. 19.

When Dobias asked if Onyango ever missed a payment on her bill, Bicking said she did not. The records indicated that she missed her January 2008 payment and none were made on it since the December payment, which was received Dec. 8 and credited Dec. 11, 2007.

Earlier testimony indicated Freeby was asked by police about Onyango's credit card and if he ever used it. He denied ever seeing or using it.

After Bicking finished, Nanovic recessed for lunch and told the panel the trial would resume at 1:15 p.m. It got started about 1:35 p.m. at which time Dobias asked for a brief delay because his next witness, a state police forensic expert, was having a problem with his computer.

About 10 minutes after that Nanovic said the problem was apparently going to take a lot longer to fix and he was forced to recess for the day, apologizing to the jury for the various delays experienced during the day.

Nanovic told the jury to return by 8:45 a.m. with the trial starting at 9 a.m. today.

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