In a court hearing Thursday, Timothy D. Shults, Washington, asked a judge to waive a jury trial in his first-degree murder case.
Shults, 47, is scheduled to stand trial in late June for the murder of Deborah Marsch, 53, in 2009.
Marsch was strangled to death July 3, 2009 in Union’s Autumn Hill Park in an apparent random act of violence.
Circuit Judge Gael Wood set the bench trial in the case after Shults acknowledged that he understood what he was agreeing to.
In exchange for agreeing to a bench trial, the state agreed to waive the death penalty for Shults. Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks previously agreed to ask for the death penalty.
At Thursday’s hearing, Parks asked Judge Wood to set aside a gag order in the case since no jury would be seated.
Judge Wood did not rule on the request in open court and called a closed door conference with prosecution and defense attorneys.
The judge later ruled that the gag order would remain in effect, but gave Parks leave 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.
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.
Shults, according to reports, 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 then 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.