Judge denies change of venue for man accused of murder

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A man charged with beating a Native woman to death last year cannot have his trial moved out of town, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.

Judge Mike Wolverton said Anchorage is a big city and he expects lawyers in the case will be able to find 12 people who don't know much about Joshua Allen Wade despite a burst of publicity when he was arrested.

Wade, 21, is charged with killing Della McFarlin Brown on Sept. 2 in a shed. Members of Brown's family who attended the hearing said they were relieved the trial will not be moved.

Brown's death was one of six unsolved murders of mostly Native women over the previous 18 months. The absence of arrests angered Native and victims' groups, some of whom voiced suspicions that police were not trying hard because the women were minorities and most had drinking problems. Police have consistently denied this.

When Wade was arrested, nearly a month after Brown's body was found, police said they had information linking him to other killings, but declined to elaborate.

Wade has not been charged with any other homicide. The five other deaths remain unsolved.

Defense attorney Cindy Strout argued Friday that the police comments tainted prospective Anchorage jurors in a way that cannot be fixed or be detectable even with close questioning.

Wade was arrested Sept. 30, after friends told police that Wade had described to them in detail how he raped and killed Brown. Two acquaintances eventually agreed to wear wires and record conversations with Wade about the killing.

Strout is seeking to suppress the warrant that allowed police to tape the conversation. She said the two men who wore the wires were intimidated into doing so by police.

Wolverton did not rule on Strout's suppression motion. If the wiretap warrant is thrown out, the prosecution will not be able to introduce Wade's taped comments at his trial, now set for the end of October.

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