Friday, August 15, 2008

Trial to begin for sex offender accused of killing Sarah Lunde

Tampa, Florida -- After three years in legal limbo, the murder trial of David Onstott is set to start Monday morning. Onstott is accused of killing 13-year-old Sarah Lunde in 2005, launching a search for the girl that lasted a week.

Prosecutors face an uphill struggle to get a conviction in the trial.

The judge has thrown out a confession Onstott made to detectives, and the state will build its case without any physical evidence linking him to the crime.

When Sarah Lunde disappeared, it hit the bay area hard. She was the third teenage girl to vanish in just a little over a year.

It was April 2005. Police and volunteers had searched for Carlie Brucia the previous year, and Jessica Lunsford just a month before. Again, they took to the woods near her home in Ruskin and fanned out through neighborhoods, looking and hoping.

The search lasted almost a week. A search dog finally found Sarah's body in an abandoned fish farm. She was partially clothed and weighed down by concrete blocks.

Even before that discovery, detectives had gotten a confession from David Onstott, a convicted sex offender who used to date Sarah's mother.

But jurors won't hear about that.

The judge threw out the confession after Onstott's lawyers argued that he'd been questioned even though he had demanded to speak to a lawyer.

That decision has delayed this trial dramatically. It has also forced prosecutors to drop their pursuit of the death penalty.

Without the confession, they're going to be seeking life in prison and trying Onstott based on circumstantial evidence. The state has no physical evidence linking Onstott to the crime.

However, prosecutors do have testimony from Sarah's brother that puts Onstott at Sarah's house the day she disappeared. And, since he was arrested, Onstott has talked to loved ones about having a violent soul, and breaking all of the Ten Commandments.

After three years of motions and hearings, jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday morning.

As an example of how long these legal delays have gone on, consider this: Jessica Lunsford disappeared about a month before Sarah Lunde. Jessica's killer, John Couey, has already been convicted and condemned and has now been sitting on death row for almost a year.

We'll have every development in the Onstott trial -- with up-to-the-minute updates --here on

Grayson Kamm, Tampa Bay's 10 News

No comments: