St. Paul Hosts Murder Trial for First Time in Nearly 20 Years
By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
With metal detectors beeping, police officers search folks entering a courtroom that hasn't seen a murder trial in nearly 20 years.
John Oldson faces a jury, accused of killing Cathy Beard back in 1989. The case went cold, but is heating up in a January with wind chills in the single digits.
"It's something we hardly ever see in Howard County," Loren Studley said.
But the crime didn't happen in Howard County. It's a case from Ord, in nearby Valley County.
Just the same as he did for a 1995 murder, Studley, a St. Paul businessman took a seat in the courtroom to see the action.
He said, "I just wanted to see how the process worked and see how everything sets up for a trial like this."
And the setup is unique. Judge Karin Noakes felt she couldn't get a fair jury in Ord so moved the case 40 miles to St. Paul where she also holds court.
Howard County Clerk Marge Palmberg said, "We're fortunate to have her stationed here in Howard County."
Noakes and Palmberg have worked together for years, dating back to Noakes' time as Howard County Attorney.
After the court approved the change of venue, files were transferred and Howard County came up with the jury pool.
"Judge Noakes did pull 150 names for our jury so we were busy getting those documents out and qualifying forms," Palmberg explained, saying it took teamwork with her staff to get the job done.
Howard County is providing security and other help, at Valley County's expense.
Palmberg said, "We were instructed to keep a list of everything we spend and evidently it will be sent to Valley County."
Palmberg is a woman who wears many hats as she is also register of deeds and election commissioner, but she has never seen a man stand trial for murder.
"I've not been involved in anything like this," she said.
And as far as folks in St. Paul like Loren Studley are concerned, they'd like to keep it that way.
"We like positive stuff, don't like to dwell on negative in Howard County," Studley said.
Loren runs a men's clothing store a couple blocks away from the courthouse and sat through testimony Wednesday.
The case is expected to last up to two weeks.
Palmberg said her biggest responsibilities come at the beginning and end of the trial -- during jury selection and then when a verdict is in.
St. Paul Police Chief Steve Studnicka said the last murder trial in Howard County was for a Boelus woman. She was convicted of killing her husband, served time, and has since been released from prison. That crime was committed in 1995, 18 years ago.
Loren Studley said he attended that trial, and nearly 20 years later, returned to see the Oldson case.