Jury selection starts in murder trial

Jerry Nemnich

Ninety-four Mesa County residents showed up Tuesday at the Mesa County Justice Center as jury selection began in the trial of a man accused of killing a Grand Junction mother and daughter 35 years ago.

Rose Anne Kelley, Mesa County’s jury commissioner, said 136 residents who received summonses for jury duty were expected to appear Tuesday for the trial of 65-year-old Longmont resident Jerry Nemnich. The 42 confirmed no-shows will receive failure-to-appear notices for possible prosecution, Kelley said.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger on Tuesday moved to dismiss a pair of burglary charges against Nemnich, which stem from the July 25, 1975, stabbing deaths of Linda Benson, 24, and her daughter, Kelley, 5, at their apartment at 1300 N. 21st St.

Hautzinger said Colorado’s statute of limitations would prevent trying Nemnich on the burglary charges.

Dressed in a business suit, Nemnich on Tuesday passed occasional notes to his attorneys during questioning of potential jurors.

Nemnich has pleaded not guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder. He has been jailed in Mesa County on $3 million bond since his arrest in April 2009.

The Benson murders remained cold until an investigation was reopened in 2008 and authorities provided blood evidence in the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for testing.

CBI agents developed a DNA profile from the blood, then entered it into a computer database containing profiles of convicted offenders.

In January 2009, Nemnich’s DNA was matched up with blood recovered from the Benson apartment.

Grand Junction Police Department Detective Sean Crocker testified during a pretrial hearing that blood found on Linda Benson’s body, as well as an ashtray from her apartment and a cereal box, have been tied to Nemnich.

Attorneys on Tuesday projected opening statements in the case could begin by Thursday.


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