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William Felix Vail. (American Press Archives)

William Felix Vail. (American Press Archives)

Vail trial venue change request denied

Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2014 3:09 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Felix Vail’s trial will be held in Calcasieu Parish.

Judge Robert Wyatt denied a defense motion for a change of venue, saying he believed unbiased jurors could be found in the parish and that media coverage has not been overly extensive.

The court held a mock jury selection Friday morning, bringing in 48 jurors.

Vail, 74, is accused of murdering his wife, Mary Horton Vail, in October 1962. He claims she drowned on the Calcasieu River; authorities say he killed her.

He is also believed to be the last person to see two other women alive: Sharon Hensley, a girlfriend, went missing in 1973, and Annette Craver Vail, another wife, went missing in 1984.

Defense attorney Ben Cormier argued that because 55 percent of the jurors said they had knowledge of the case and because 12 of those said they had already formed an opinion, the case should be moved.

Ten of the jurors admitted they were likely prejudiced toward Vail already, Cormier said. “A fifth of the jury pool has already reached a decision,” he said.

There will also be more media exposure after the hearing, he said.

In denying the motion, Wyatt said that if the numbers are applied to 100 or 150 jurors, an unbiased jury could likely be found.

Will Horton, Mary Horton Vail’s brother, said his family was pleased with the decision. “We’d much rather it be here,” he said. “We were hoping for it to stay here.”

Wyatt also heard a motion to exclude evidence pertaining to the other missing women. One of the pieces of evidence was a suitcase found in a room of a house in Tulsa, Okla., that Vail sold.

The suitcase was kept in a room that Vail kept locked while he rented out the home, Calcasieu sheriff’s detective Randy Curtis said. Once Vail sold the home, he retrieved some items from the room, then told the renters they could have the rest, Curtis said. Inside the suitcase were clothes of the style worn by Craver Vail and birth control pills with her name on the label.

Wyatt said he will rule on March 19.

Will Horton said he is glad to see the case moving forward.

“It’s proceeding; we’re thrilled about that,” he said. “Fifty-two years is a long time. A few months we can handle.”

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