Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Judge prods attorneys to speed things up for Fort Pierce man's 1st-degree murder trial

By Tyler Treadway

Originally published 10:17 a.m., March 18, 2008
Updated 10:17 a.m., March 18, 2008

FORT PIERCE — Circuit Judge Larry Schack spent most of a Tuesday morning hearing prodding attorneys to speed up the first-degree murder trial of Albert Estrada, who allegedly shot his wife and buried her body in the backyard of their Port St. Lucie home in July 2006.

But Schack, who told attorneys to prepare for an August trial, ended the hearing by offering to recuse himself from the case, noting that his judicial assistant is friends with a possible witness in the trial.

“It won’t have an impact on me,” Schack told defense attorneys Rusty Akins and Robert Udell, “but I’ll take no offense if you want me to disqualify myself.”

After the hearing, Akins said he and Udell “will talk to Mr. Estrada about (Schack’s offer). It’s his call.”

Authorities allege that on July 26, 2006, Estrada argued with his wife, Julia Rolon-Estrada, 39, because he wanted to have a child with another woman. He allegedly shot her in the femoral artery of her leg, wrapped her in a blue tarp and buried her in a shallow grave behind their home on Rainier Road.

In a letter to Circuit Judge Gary Sweet, Estrada claimed his wife shot herself by accident.

The State Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty.

Schack also denied a request by Estrada, 41, to be transferred to the Martin County Jail, claiming he has been beaten several times by deputies at the St. Lucie County Jail.

The beatings “go on and on,” he told Schack.

Schack said Akins and Udell should “have a chat with jail officials” to work out the problem.

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