LAKE COUNTY, Ohio -- The murder trial involving a Perry Township man accused of killing a Mentor grandmother is underway. Joseph Thomas is being accused of raping and stabbing a 49-year-old woman a day after Thanksgiving almost two years ago.
Joseph Thomas, 28, sat silently in the Lake County courtroom and looked straight at Judge Richard Collins during opening statements in the murder of Annie McSween.
It took more than a week to pick a jury because attorneys on both sides say it was difficult trying to find jurors who were not familiar with the murder.
McSween was a bartender at Mario's Lakeway Lounge and according to the prosecutor, bar owner Mario Cacaic saw the defendant before closing at 2:30 in the morning.
"When he returned to the bar there was one individual in there, a person no one really quite knew. When Mario last saw him he was leaning over the bar by Anne all alone at the bar. Anne told him first it's time to leave, and Mario said it's time to leave, and ultimately the guy left," says Charles Cichocki, assistant Lake County prosecutor
Thomas' defense attorney David Doughten says otherwise.
"Importantly, the evidence is going to show that the homicide probably occurred between 4 and 4:20 in the morning, so it's essentially two hours after and after Joe left the bar that the homicide occurred. I don't think the evidence is going to show that he's waiting out in the woods for two hours to see who might come out the bar that night."
The day after Thanksgiving McSween's body was found near the Lakeway Lounge by bar owner Mario Cacaic, who then called police.
Prosecutors say McSween`s burned clothes and purse were found in the back yard of the Mentor-on-the-Lake house, where Joseph Thomas was living at the time. Thomas is being charged with aggravated murder, rape and nine other counts, and if convicted he could face the death penalty.
The murder trial continues on Wednesday.