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Trials in child murder case to remain severed; first to begin in April

CODY - The cases of Carolyn Aune and Moshe Williams ¬- who are charged in the murder of 2-year-old Paisleigh Williams - will remain severed, with each facing a separate jury trial, following a March 17 ruling issued by Park County District Court Judge Bobbi Overfield.

Overfield also denied the state's request to postpone Aune's April 17 jury trial.

These two rulings were issued following a March 16 hearing, in which Deputy Park County and Prosecuting Attorney Jack Hatfield requested the cases be rejoined and Aune's trial be postponed.

During the hearing, Hatfield said there was no need for separate trials due to Williams being found competent to stand trial for the second time.

"In granting the severance in the first place, it was based on not knowing whether or when Mr. Williams would be competent to stand trial," he said. "In determining he is competent ... there is no other reason to leave this severed."

Hatfield added that holding a second jury trial would be a "logistical nightmare."

"For a murder trial in a county as small as Park County is, doing it twice is going to necessitate a totally separate jury trial in another part of the state," he said. "[And] as difficult as it is for the state to get 52 witnesses, it's exponentially harder to do that twice ... and then getting them on the other side of the state."

Aune's counsel, Elisabeth Trefonas, opposed rejoining the cases.

"Aune's defense is ready to move forward. We're ready to start April 17," she said. "It's impractical to try to join them again unless we can do the [joint trial] April 17."

In her March 17 ruling, Overfield said it was the possible delays that played into her decision not to rejoin the cases.

After the hearing on whether to rejoin the cases, Hatfield presented his arguments for postponement of Aune's trial. His main reason was that six key witnesses might not be unavailable for trial.

One witness is the pathologist who performed the autopsy of Paisleigh Williams.

"The state cannot do a murder trial without the pathologist that performed the autopsy," Hatfield said. "The state doesn't see how it can go forward on April 17 without the one absolutely essential witness."

In her ruling, Overfield said the state had not "shown good cause" to delay Aune's trial.

During the hearing, counsel for Aune also expressed concern the state was using jailhouse informants to build a case against Aune, and the state was told to disclose whether informants had been used.

"The state will confirm if any special deals or arrangements were made," Overfield said at the hearing.

The motion was filed by Aune's previous counsel, Travis Smith, requesting information on the use of jailhouse informants by the state.

Hatfield said that since the beginning of the murder case, staff at the Park County Detention Center have received statements from inmates allegedly detailing how Aune and Williams, have been "making statements that might be harmful to their positions in their cases."

Hatfield told the deputies to record the statements being made so both Aune's and Williams' counsels would be aware of what was being said.

"The state has presented all the statements we have received," Hatfield told the court.

But Hatfield said the state has not made any deals with jailhouse informants for their statements.

This story was published on March 29, 2023.

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