Judge to Consider Venue Change in Murder Case - The Missourian: News

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Judge to Consider Venue Change in Murder Case

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Posted: Friday, February 4, 2011 3:00 pm | Updated: 3:14 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2013.

Circuit Judge Gael Wood could rule in the next few weeks on whether or not to grant a change of venue in the case of a man accused of murdering a Pacific woman in 2009.

Attorneys for Vernell J. Loggins Jr. are seeking to have his first-degree murder trial moved to another county or judicial circuit.

Loggins is charged with one count each of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the murder and mutilation of Stephanie Fields, Pacific.

Following a brief hearing Thursday, Judge Wood gave both sides until Friday, Feb. 11, to file written arguments on the change of venue motion. The judge then will consider those arguments and issue a decision.

Loggins' defense attorneys submitted several items into evidence including news coverage of the murder. The prosecution is expected to oppose a venue change on the grounds that the case has not received sufficient adverse publicity that would prevent Loggins from receiving a fair trial.

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks last year filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Loggins if he is found guilty of murdering Fields in November 2009.

Loggins, 38, Pacific, has been held in the county jail on a $1 million bond since his arrest Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009, hours after the body of Fields was found in a large trash can beside a dumpster at the Monroe Woods Apartment complex where he lived.

The woman's head and hands were not in the can, but were recovered two days later on the bank of the Meramec River near Times Beach. Sources said information provided by Loggins led investigators to search and recover those body parts.

The death penalty notice, filed May 5, 2010, notes that the state intends to prove the following statutory aggravating circumstance:

"The murder in the first degree was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture or depravity of mind . . . in that the defendant, while killing Stephanie M. Fields or immediately thereafter, purposely mutilated or grossly disfigured the body of Stephanie M. Fields by acts beyond that necessary to cause her death."

The St. Louis Area Major Case Squad was activated the day the woman's body was found and by that evening members of the sheriff's department's Emergency Response Team had served a search warrant at an apartment and took Loggins into custody without incident.

Investigators seized evidence in Loggins' apartment and a surveillance video from the Eureka Wal-Mart store which shows a man resembling the suspect purchasing a 64-gallon plastic trash can along with carpet cleaner, detergent and glue.

Loggins is being represented by the capital crimes unit of the Missouri Public Defenders office.

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