Jury selection begins today in Fairchild murder

Posted: Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jury selection is scheduled to begin this morning in Kenai Superior Court in the murder trial of Barry McCormack Sr., accused of killing a Soldotna woman 21 years ago.

McCormack, 55, has been in Wildwood Pretrial Facility since March 2003 awaiting trial for the murder of Opal Fairchild, a 65-year-old woman who was shot to death in an apparent robbery of her home on East Poppy Lane in Soldotna.

During a status hearing on Tuesday, Judge Charles Huguelet told Assistant District Attorney Scot Leaders and Assistant Public Defender Margaret Moran they would be allowed three-minute mini opening statements today and Thursday morning before questioning potential jurors individually.

On Friday, Huguelet will allow the attorneys to spend one hour conducting group voir dire — the questioning of prospective jurors as a group.

Questionnaires were mailed to 100 potential jurors for the case.

One half of the respondents are to be questioned by the prosecutor and the defense attorney today and one half Thursday.

McCormack is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in the Fairchild slaying, allegedly committed March 20, 1985.

About two weeks before that, Melvin Anderson was robbed at gunpoint in his woodstove retail store in Sterling. He was shot once in the head by the robber, who fled with about $500 from the cash register.

Anderson survived the shooting, and investigators were able to recover the bullet from his head. It later was matched to the bullet recovered from Fairchild.

Fingerprints found at both crime scenes reportedly also matched, but were not linked to McCormack until 2000, when the troopers’ Criminal Investigation Bureau asked the State Crime Lab to conduct a follow-up search to compare latent fingerprints found at the Fairchild crime scene.

They matched the fingerprints of McCormack, and subsequent analysis also matched latent prints from the Anderson crime scene to McCormack’s.

McCormack cannot be charged in the Anderson robbery because the statute of limitations has run out on that crime. No limitation applies to murder cases in Alaska.

Law enforcement officers continue to look for the possible murder weapon, a Ruger Speed Six .357 revolver with serial number 159-13540. Anyone with more information about the crimes, including information about the gun, is asked to call troopers at 262-4453 or Soldotna police at 262-4455.

If convicted of murdering Fairchild, McCormack could face up to 99 years of imprisonment on each charge.

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