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October 12, 2012

Judge: Gibson competent to stand trial

Gibson given the green light to proceed in Feb. 2013 capital murder case

NEW ALBANY — Accused serial killer William Clyde Gibson III was found competent to stand trail during a hearing in Floyd County Superior Court No. 1 on Friday morning.

The competency hearing follows two evaluations by mental health professionals, both of which found Gibson, 54, competent. Court officials said the findings are considered health records and will not be released to the public for review.

Both of the mental health professionals testified in Judge Susan Orth’s court Friday, before she made the decision to officially rule Gibson competent to proceed to his first of two, and possibly three murder trials.

Gibson is first scheduled to go before a jury for the slaying of Christine Whitis, 75, of Clarksville, who was found strangled to death in the garage of Gibson’s New Albany home April 19. The court previously ruled that jurors will be brought in from Dearborn County, located near Cincinnati, to rule in the trial, which will be held in Floyd County.

Defense lawyer George Streib requested, and Floyd County prosecutors agreed, the attention of the murders provided by area media in the past year would make it difficult to find impartial jurors in Floyd County and surrounding areas.

Floyd County Deputy Prosecutor Steven Owen said by transferring in a jury pool from outside the reach of area media markets would protect the constitutional rights of Gibson and the victims involved in the three fatal crimes.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson said he will be seeking the death penalty in the Whitis case and in the trial of Stephanie Kirk, 35, of Charlestown, who was found buried in Gibson’s backyard in the 800 block of Woodbourne Drive April 27.

The cases will be tried separately.

Henderson previously said the date for the Kirk trial will be set after the Whitis trial comes to a close.

Gibson also faces charges in the death of 45-year-old Karen Hodella, who was found murdered near the Ohio River in January 2003.

Henderson has said the death penalty will not be pursued for Hodella’s death.

Lawyers are scheduled to meet on Oct . 24 for an attorney conference.

Gibson is expected to return to Floyd County Superior Court for a pretrial conference Dec. 12.

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