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Trial postponed in baseball bat killing

Trial delay
Mar. 26, 2013 @ 09:09 AM

HUNTINGTON — Trial has been postponed in the case of Edward "Jesse" Dreyfuse, according to court officials.

That decision came during a pretrial hearing Tuesday morning, minutes before attorneys were scheduled to select a jury in the nearly year-old case.

Jurors were expected to hear evidence this week that Dreyfuse used a baseball bat to kill a mentally handicapped man.
 
The incident happened April 9, 2012, at the victim's Washington Avenue residence. Otis Clay Jr. quickly slipped into a coma and died from his injuries weeks later.

An investigator summed up the case last spring, testifying Dreyfuse forcibly entered the victim's residence in search of those who sold him wax instead of $30 in crack cocaine. He picked up the baseball bat and started swinging, believing Clay was hiding those involved in the alleged rip-off.

Dreyfuse strongly denied any such accusation Monday. He did so in rejecting a plea offer to second-degree murder, which could have made him eligible for parole in 10 years. A guilty verdict could bring life in prison.

"I'm not admitting guilt to anything," Dreyfuse told the court, also rejecting a no-contest plea.

The judge dismissed two counts of assault during the commission of a felony at Monday's hearing. Single counts of murder and burglary remain.

The lead investigator, in testimony last spring, described Clay as a mentally handicapped man, taken advantage of by a convicted prostitute whom he befriended and allowed use of his home. That woman worked as the drug dealer's go-between in the ill-fated transaction.

Dreyfuse, known to many as simply "Jesse," was himself homeless.

Authorities searched for days hoping to reveal either his location or identity. Those answers came in a gym bag with dirty clothes and two pieces of paper, all found when police visited the residence of a man who befriended the suspect. The folded pieces of paper were applications for food stamps and a cellphone, both of which contained Dreyfuse's personal and identifying information

That led authorities to Dreyfuse's criminal record and driver's license. News releases then helped two passersby report a hitchhiker who matched the suspect's description April 20, 2012, along U.S. 50 near Parkersburg, W.Va.

Clay died 11 days later, on May 1, at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Defense attorney John Laishley told the court his side does not anticipate calling any witnesses, other than perhaps the defendant. It means their side will take a pass on arguing that Clay died on an operating table, revived only to live on a ventilator that his family later removed.

"(Dreyfuse) did not inflict the blows," Laishley said in explaining his client instructed against that line of defense. "So from his point of view, my time was better used in preparing for the trial."

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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