Second Murder Trial Starts In Death Of Wayne County 5-Year-Old
Posted June 22, 2005 5:23 a.m. EDT
GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Witnesses said Wednesday that they saw a man on a moped with a bicycle strapped to his back near the creek where the body of a dead 5-year-old girl was found two days later.
Eric Lane, who is charged with kidnapping, raping and killing Precious Whitfield, was found with a red moped similar to the one described by witnesses. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
Lane's attorneys, however, said their client did not kill Precious.
One witness said he saw a man with a white helmet carrying a bundle down the embankment toward the creek on May 17, 2002. The witness says when he returned home, his mother told him that a girl was missing.
Lane's trial triggered strong emotions from the start.
On Wednesday, the courtroom was filled with family from both sides, including the victim's grandparents, John and Likisha Whitfield.
"It's been hard, real hard," said John Whitfield. "Some of the evidence presented was pretty graphic. It took a lot to watch it."
Among the evidence were photos of the girl's body taken after she was found in a river.
In the small courtroom, the Whitfields had a clear view of Lane from their seats.
"Is this really the guy that's supposed to be the monster that they say he is?" asked Whitfield. "It's hard to believe this may well be the man that took my granddaughter's life."
Before the trial, Whitfield, a minister, said if Lane is convicted, he does not want him to get the death penalty. Instead, he wanted him locked in a cell for life with photos of his granddaughter taped to the wall.
Now, his view has changed slightly.
"Maybe not only just a picture of her, but a picture of her at her death," Whitefield said. "A picture of how she looked when they found her. I think that would change his mind."
Testimony will continue for only a half-day Thursday before breaking for the weekend because of some scheduling issues. It is likely that the defense will not call its first witness until sometime next week.
An earlier trial for Lane ended in mistrial in November because a juror improperly commented about possible punishments.
On Tuesday, a juror told Superior Court Judge Gary Trawick someone approached her at a sandwich shop and put a hand on her shoulder. The person told the juror to, "Do the right thing," and counseled her against talking about the case to avoid another mistrial.