CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The second of two decades-old murder cases involving an elderly Missouri couple headed to trial Tuesday as prosecutors and defense attorneys began to question dozens of prospective jurors to find enough people who hadn't heard about either well-publicized case.
Investigators haven't linked the mid-1970s and 1980 crimes allegedly committed by Alice Uden, 75, and Gerald Uden, 71, but that's only heightened widespread interest in the pair from rural Chadwick, Mo., since their arrest last September.
Frail-looking with short, white hair and wire glasses, Alice Uden wore a court-supplied hearing aid and sat in a wheelchair as Laramie County District Judge Steven Sharpe instructed prospective jurors not to read up on the case if they are empaneled.
Prosecutors allege she shot Ronald Holtz with a .22-caliber rifle as he slept sometime between Christmas Eve 1974, and Feb. 5, 1975. She had been married to Holtz, 25, for only a month or two.
The first group of 30 or so prospective jurors looked like a typical cross-section of Cheyenne: A mix of well-dressed men and women who might work in business or government and a somewhat larger number of blue-collar-looking folks, some wearing jeans and flannel.
Sharpe planned to call up a larger-than-usual pool of 75 to counter widespread publicity of the case in mostly rural Laramie County, population 95,000, where word tends to get around — publicity or not.
The judge told the packed courtroom that jury selection would take at least a day. He has reserved eight days for the trial.
The disappearance of Holtz almost 40 years ago had been all but forgotten. Then last summer, investigators recovered his remains from an abandoned mine on a small ranch in the mountains between Cheyenne and Laramie. They say his skull had a .22-caliber bullet in it.
Uden's attorneys are preparing to argue she acted in self-defense.
They expect to call to the stand a sociologist who could testify about how police typically responded to domestic violence calls in the 1970s. Uden's attorneys also have indicated they plan to argue that she acted to protect herself and her then-2-year-old daughter.
Arrested at almost the same time as Alice Uden last fall was her current husband, Gerald Uden, who pleaded guilty Nov. 1 in another case all but forgotten by residents of Fremont County in central Wyoming.
Uden's ex-wife Virginia Uden, 32, and her two sons, Richard, 11, and Reagan, 10, went missing in September 1980. A couple of months later, sheriff's deputies found the family's Ford station wagon, with blood stains in it, abandoned off the side of a mountain road.
Uden told a courtroom in Lander he shot the three with a .22-caliber rifle before dumping their bodies first in an abandoned mine, then in Fremont Lake north of Pinedale in western Wyoming. Investigators spent a couple of days searching the 600-foot-deep lake last fall before calling off the search for the winter.
The search for the bodies remains suspended. Fremont Lake is still frozen over and unlikely to thaw for a few more weeks.