Man’s third trial for same murder begins in Summit County

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AKRON, Ohio - A jury has been selected to hear the third trial of a man who has already been twice convicted in the murder of his 26-year-old girlfriend.

Charlene Puffenbarger, a mother of two, was strangled and beaten in her Twinsburg Township apartment in 1992.

From court records, a coroner concluded Charlene had several scalp lacerations, defensive wounds on her hands, and a leather strap wrapped twice around her neck.

The crime went unsolved for more than a decade, then after revisiting the case, investigators with the Summit County Sheriff's Office charged Willard McCarley for the crime. He was tried in 2005 and convicted.

Court records show that Puffenbarger filed a paternity suit naming McCarley as the father of her two-year-old son in November of 1991.

Prosecutors convinced a jury that McCarley killed her to avoid paying child support.

He was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 26 years, but the conviction was overturned on appeal and in 2007, he went back on trial and with the help of DNA evidence, he was again convicted and again sentenced to life in prison.

In 2014 an appeals court granted him another trial and on Tuesday McCarley was back in court as his defense attorneys and prosecutors selected jurors to hear the case a third time.

Also in the courtroom was Puffenbarger's brother Ken and his wife.

"It's obviously difficult to go through this. It has been 25 years since it first happened, obviously this is the third go around on this same verdict the first two times it's very hurtful. It's very difficult on my mother," said Ken Puffenbarger.

The jury on Wednesday is expected to visit the apartment building where the crime happened before hearing testimony in the third trial.​

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