Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Mistrial Equals Limbo

Posted March 14, 2007 5:57 p.m. EDT

 A jury failed to decide today whether Michael Massenburg is guilty of first degree or second degree murder in the killing of his wife.  The mistrial means that everyone involved in the case is in legal limbo now waiting for closure which will surely not be swift.

The facts are undisputed- on May 16, 2005 investigators say Massenburg followed his wife, Toni Massenburg, from dropping her children off at daycare, rammed her car with his car forcing her off the road, jumped out of his car, and then ran up to her car and strangled her with her seatbelt.   Emergency workers who responded to the scene thought it was a simple car accident.  But they testified at trial that they quickly learned otherwise as Massenburg repeatedly admitted to them that he had killed his wife.

The jury basically had to decide between murder with premeditation, first degree, and murder that doesn't involve premeditation, second degree.  Why this was so difficult is of no consequence, put any twelve people in one room and chances are they will have twelve different opinions of the same situation.  What does have a consequence is that the victim's family will have to wait even longer for closure.

It took almost two years for this case to come to trial.  The wait has been agonizing for Toni Massenburg's family.   One relative told me this week that he just couldn't wait for it to be over because the whole thing had been so agonizing for his wife, Toni's sister.  The biggest  tragedy of course involves the couple's three children.  They have been splitting their time between Toni Massenburg's sister's house and their paternal grandparents.  They have also visited their father at Central Prison.

I asked Toni Massenburg's sister this week if it was difficult for her to allow the kids to see their father, the man that killed their mother.  Cheryl Amey simply said:  "They have questions I can't answer." 

And it looks like until the legal process runs its course, they will continue to have questions that no one can answer.

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