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Jury selection to begin in murder trial for Alice Uden

Apr 29, 2014 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- With jury selection scheduled to begin Tuesday for an elderly Missouri woman accused of killing her husband 40 years ago, defense attorneys want to ensure jurors don't know about her current husband's guilty plea in a separate decades-old murder case.

More prospective jurors will be called up than originally planned to help ensure that's possible.

Attorneys for Alice Uden, 75, have been preparing to argue self-defense as she's tried on first-degree murder charges in Cheyenne in the death of her husband in southeast Wyoming in the mid-1970s, court documents show.

She and her current husband, Gerald Uden, 71, were arrested in rural Chadwick, Mo., in late September, and he has since acknowledged killing his then-wife and her young sons in 1980. Investigators have not linked the two cases.

In Alice Uden's trial, the defense expects to call to the stand a sociologist who could testify about how police typically responded to domestic violence calls in the 1970s. Also, a statement filed by the defense so it can be read to prospective jurors says attorneys will argue Uden acted to protect herself and her then-2-year-old daughter.

Prosecutors were preparing to argue that Uden shot Ronald Holtz, then 25, with a .22-caliber rifle as he slept in late 1974 or early 1975. They say she dumped his body in an abandoned mine on the Remount Ranch, a small cattle outfit between Cheyenne and Laramie, where Uden had been a caretaker.

Investigators dug up Holtz's remains last summer and say they found a .22-caliber bullet in his skull. Holtz went missing after being married to Uden for only a month or two.

After the Udens were arrested, Gerald Uden pleaded guilty Nov. 1 to shooting his ex-wife, Virginia Uden, 32, and her two sons, Richard Uden, 11, and Reagan Uden, 10, a few miles from his home near Pavillion, in central Wyoming, in 1980. He is serving a life sentence, the penalty Alice Uden faces if convicted.

One of Alice Uden's attorneys, Donald Miller, told District Court Judge Steven Sharpe last week that he doesn't want to seat jurors who may have reached conclusions about Alice Uden's guilt based on Gerald Uden's case.

"In foreign countries it's being talked about," Miller told Sharpe, adding he feared all the attention paid to both cases would result in very few people being unfamiliar with Gerald Uden's case.

Miller asked Sharpe to increase the pool of prospective jurors from 65 to 75. District Attorney Scott Homar said he didn't object, and Sharpe said he would grant the request.

Meanwhile, cold spring weather continues to postpone the search for the bodies of Virginia Uden and her sons, whom Gerald Uden had adopted while he was married to her.

Uden told a courtroom in Lander last fall that 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 lake remains frozen over and is unlikely to thaw for a few more weeks.

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