Defense: Move trial for girl's slaying from Tampa

Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

TAMPA — Attorneys for the man accused of the murder and attempted rape of 13-year-old Sarah Michelle Lunde want the trial moved to a new city.

David Lee Onstott, a 38-year-old registered sex offender, cannot get a fair trial in Tampa because of "intense media coverage," according to a 310-page motion filed Dec. 22 by his attorney in circuit court.

The motion cites media reports of Onstott's alleged confession to investigators and jail guards and comparisons to the slayings of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in Sarasota County in 2004 and 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Citrus County in 2005.

Tampa Bay jurors "could not possibly put matters out of their minds and try the case solely upon the evidence presented in the courtroom," Assistant Public Defender John Skye wrote.

Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta has scheduled the Tampa trial for March.

He has not ruled on a change of venue.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Onstott, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and attempted sexual battery.

Sarah's body was found in an abandoned fish pond near the family's home in Ruskin on April 16, 2005.

Onstott confessed to investigators, jail staff and his mother, prosecutors said.

But court documents show there is little physical evidence so far linking him to the crime.

Telephone messages left at the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office and Skye's office were not immediately returned.

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