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Murder trial's 14th day

Published January 28. 2012 09:01AM

People wouldn't blame the jury panel hearing testimony in the murder trial of a Lansford man from getting a little frustrated with the pace of the proceedings.

Friday was the 14th day of the trial of Ernest Troy Freeby, 36, charged with killing his estranged wife, Edwina Atieno Onyango, 34, in the basement of his home and then disposing of her body.

The jury reported Friday at the requested time of 9 a.m., were sent home about 9:35 a.m. and told to return for 1 p.m. when testimony would resume. The panel returned but didn't actually start hearing any testimony until about 2:15 and then only heard one "live" witness before being sent home for the weekend by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II.

Nanovic apologized to the panel for the delay stating the prosecution and defense had agreed to stipulate to certain evidence which would forgo the requirement of a person testifying to that evidence. Nanovic said that did save a lot of time and was the reason the morning session was not held so the two sides could work out the details of the stipulations. He also said he believed the evidence in the trial would conclude sometime on Monday.

District Attorney Gary F. Dobias rested his case on Tuesday after calling over 35 witnesses and presenting over 60 exhibits.

The defense side began on Wednesday and has called six witnesses, including the one heard Friday, so far.

When the trial resumed defense Attorney Paul Levy put into the record a report from the state police crime laboratory on the testing of hair found on the basement steps of the Freeby home at 207 W. Bertsch St. and also on the coal bin door. He said about 40 hairs in all were found, with the vast majority being tested and found not to be Negro hair. Onyango is a native of Kenya and a black woman. Earlier testimony indicated hair found on a wall in the coal pin was tested and a DNA profile was developed and it was determined to match Onyango's DNA.

Also presented were various photographs taken of the basement steps and larger photos of the hair found on the steps and in the coal bin.

After that Levy called Veronica Gayah, of Allentown, who lived with Onyango, Freeby and Onyango's sister in an apartment in Whitehall.

She said she first met Freeby in 2001 when the four stayed together in the two bedroom apartment. She said Freeby and Onyango occupied one bedroom and she and Phobe Onygano stayed in the other.

She said on a day in 2004 she returned home to find that Onyango had moved out. She said most of the furniture in the apartment belonged to Onyango and that she took it all. Prior to that Phobe Onyango had already moved out.

She also said at sometime she learned that personal items of hers were missing including her passport, Social Security card and school identification card. She said that was six months before Onyango had moved out.

She said she contacted a friend of Onyango, who had visited with the missing woman on occasions at the Whitehall apartment, asking if he knew anything about the missing items. She said in about two weeks she received the passport and school ID in the mail.

She also told the jury of learning through a letter from the IRS that someone had used her identification and she said the IRS letter indicated he owed $6,000 in taxes.

She said she went to the employment service where the IRS letter said she was working and learned Onyango had used her name and Social Security number to get employment with the firm. She said she was shown an ID card that had her name on it but the photo on it was of Onyango.

Under questioning from Dobias, Gayah said Onyango was working two jobs at one time when they were living together - McDonald's and Burger King. She also said everything that Onyango took when she left belonged to Onyango.

She said under direct questioning that Onyango never told her she planned to move out, but added, "she was a very private person."

State police allege that Freeby killed Onyango in the basement and disposed of the body.

The defense side will continue Monday with possibly one or two more witnesses to be called. It is not known if Freeby will be a witness.

Nanovic said the trial could go into Tuesday.

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