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Testimony centers on cell phone records at murder trial

Published January 26. 2012 05:01PM

Testimony at the murder trial of a Lansford man centered on cell phone records on Wednesday

Defense attorneys for Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, charged with killing his estranged wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34, a native of Kenya, called just two witnesses yesterday as they began their side of the case.

Attorney Paul Levy questioned Cpl. Thomas McAndrew, one of the lead investigators in the case for the state police, concerning the cell phones of both Freeby and Onyango.

Police alleged that Freeby killed Onyango in the basement of his home at 207 W. Bertsch St., on Dec. 9, 2007, and disposed of the body. The body has never been found.

McAndrew, in reviewing the phone bills of both Freeby and Onyango, said during the period of Dec. 9 to 31, 2007, there were about 100 phone calls made between Freeby's phone and that of Onyango. He said about 98 were from Freeby to Onyango. On Dec. 9, 2007, there were six calls with the last occurring at 12:39 p.m.

McAndrew testified on the morning of Dec. 9 there was a five minute call between Freeby and Onyango's phones. He said there was a call at 11:36 a.m. that lasted a minute and then a return call from Onyango to Freeby a minute later.

The calls that occurred from Freeby's phone to Onyango after Dec. 9 last only a minute. McAndrew said that the call could have been less than a minute because cell phone companies charge by the minute and a call that may last just a few seconds, is recorded as a minute.

The calls made on days after Dec. 9 occurred at various times, McAndrew said, during the morning, afternoon and evening hours and also during the early morning hours such as 1 to 2 a.m.

He said based on the bill, the calls were a minute or less.

Under cross examination by District Attorney Gary F. Dobias, prior to Dec. 9 Onyango's phone bill indicated she made between 80 to 90 calls. There were just two calls on Dec. 9 from her phone and none after that date.

McAndrew added that there is no way a to determine who was making the calls on the two phones.

He said Onyango's phone has never been found. He also said the service was terminated on Onyango's phone in February for nonpayment of the bill.

McAndrew also testified to two greeting cards Freeby gave him which he said had come from Onyango. One was a Christmas card and the other a birthday card.

He said he checked with the manufacturers of the two cards and was told the Christmas card was first placed in circulation in 2007 and the birthday card was issued in 2004. Both were still in circulation in 2007, he added.

Testimony was also given by attorney Michael Greek, of Lansford. He said Freeby came to his office in September 2006 to have Onyango's name placed on the deed to his Bertsch Street home. Greek said he prepared the new deed with both names on it and it was signed on Oct. 26, 2006, by Freeby, in Greek's office. He said on that day Onyango was with Freeby when the deed was signed. He said that was the first and only time he ever saw Onygano and added they acted like a normal married couple.

Under questioning by Dobias, Greek said the deed was the type in which if one of the parties died the property would automatically be in the possession of the surviving party.

The jury panel of 12 regulars and four alternates got an early break from the proceedings after McAndrew finished. They were sent home by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II about 3:10 p.m. and told to return for a 9 a.m. start today. Nanovic has been conducting the trial on a 9 a.m. to 4-4:30 p.m. schedule. He told them he was told by both sides there would be a full day of testimony today.

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