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Fayette murder suspect wants venue change

| Thursday, May 29, 2003

A Fayette County man charged with the 2002 slayings of four members of a North Union Township family has asked that his trial be moved to another county because of extensive media coverage.

Mark D. Edwards, through deputy public defender Susan Ritz Harper, stated that news accounts in four area newspapers and on local television concerning the April 14, 2002, deaths of members of the Bobish family have so poisoned the potential jury pool against Edwards that no fair trial is possible here.

"Since the defendant's arrest, the case has been exposed to an incessant barrage of coverage," states Harper in a motion filed earlier this week.

"The coverage has been prejudicial to the defendant because it has included defendant being evaluated to evade the death penalty, drug use, confession and prior record," Harper added.

Edwards, 20, of 41 Snyder Terrace, South Union Township, could face the death penalty if convicted in the April 14, 2002, deaths of Larry A. Bobish Sr., 50; his wife, Joanna M. Bobish, 42; their daughter, Krystal Bobish, 17; and her unborn son, who was in the second trimester of development. Authorities are treating the death of the unborn boy as a homicide.

Edwards told police he killed the family members to silence their threats of turning him in for a drug-related burglary two days earlier.

A change of venue motion is decided by the state Supreme Court, and the new venue is drawn randomly from a group of counties of similar size. Whole trials can be moved to other jurisdictions, but instead of a change of venue, it's more common for the juries to be brought from other areas of the state to where the crime took place.

Harper also asked for Edwards' confession to be thrown out.

She states in the motion that Edwards' request for a lawyer should have stopped his interview. Instead, officers said they continued with small talk about God and church, when Edwards said he wanted to continue with his statement.

"The statements were elicited without regard to the defendant's request for counsel and through mental coercion by the state police," she stated.

District Attorney Nancy Vernon refused to comment on the filing.

The defense also asked that photos of the Bobishes' bodies be kept out of view of a jury to avoid inflaming their passions against Edwards because of their gruesome nature.

And the defense asked a judge to consider suppressing the identification made by then 12-year-old Larry Bobish Jr., who picked Edwards out of a photo lineup from his hospital bed.

Bobish Jr. was shot and stabbed and is still in protective custody.

According to Harper, the photo lineup was made up of individuals who were not similar in appearance to Edwards and was therefore suspect and suggestive.

Edwards is being held in the Fayette County Prison without bail while awaiting trial.

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