A trial is scheduled next week for a Washington man who is charged in the brutal 2009 strangling and murder of a Union woman.

Timothy D. Shults, who is charged with the first-degree murder in the death of Deborah Marsch, 53, Union, will appear for a bench trial in front of Presiding Judge Gael Wood. The trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, June 29, at 9 a.m.

Marsch was strangled to death July 3, 2009, in Union’s Autumn Hill Park in an apparent random act of violence, authorities said.

Shults also is charged with burglary, kidnapping, armed criminal action and violation of an order of protection. A trial on those charges has not yet been scheduled.

During police interviews, the suspect said he did not know Marsch but that he was angry and she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Investigators allege that Shults approached Marsch from behind, strangled her, then threw her body into the bed of his pickup truck and drove off.

According to reports, Shults confessed to police on Sunday, July 5, 2009, that he killed the woman, then took detectives to the location where he dumped her body off Judith Spring Road.

Authorities allege that the day after the murder Shults broke into his estranged wife’s home in Washington, waited for her to return, then told her that he wanted her to go with him and she consented. He drove her car to the Labadie area and told her to walk with him into the woods but she refused and eventually convinced him to release her, authorities allege.

Later Saturday, after the abduction was reported, Washington police began an investigation and on Sunday contacted Union police who were familiar with Shults and his ex-wife who lives in Union.

Detectives went to the ex-wife’s home and found Shults there, according to police.

Motion Granted

A motion by the defendant to waive a jury trial in the murder was granted by Judge Wood last month.

In exchange for agreeing to a bench trial, the state agreed to waive the death penalty for Shults. Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks previously announced that he would ask for the death penalty if a jury found Shults guilty.

At the hearing when Shults waived his right to a jury trial, Parks asked Judge Wood to set aside a gag order in the case since no jury would be seated.

Following a closed-door conference with prosecution and defense attorneys, Judge Wood ruled that the gag order would remain in effect, but gave Parks permission to explain that he had consulted with family members of the victim who agreed to the decision to waive the death penalty if Shults waived a jury trial.

Motion Denied

On May 18, Wood denied a defense motion to suppress statements made by Shults during questioning by Union police.

Wood ruled that Officer Kyle Kitcher, assistant Union police chief, “completely and accurately advised the defendant of his rights under Miranda” prior to Shults making any incriminating statements and that the defendant was not coerced.

“The totality of the circumstances establishes that the defendant, by his words and deeds, voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly waived his constitutional rights,” Judge Wood wrote in the ruling.

The judge also denied a defense motion to suppress evidence in the case.