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October 2, 2012

Murder trial begins

Man accused of killing wife

VALDOSTA — A man accused of killing his wife and concealing her body in a closet appeared in court Monday afternoon, as attorneys began debating the facts surrounding the October 2011 discovery of Maria Rojas Luberda’s body in the couple’s home on Wilkerson Street.

Wayne Dean Luberda faces charges of malice murder, concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.

Maria’s body was discovered in the closet of the master bedroom that the couple shared.

Neighbors were led to the residence by the couple’s wandering dog, and investigators followed the scent of human decay to find Maria’s body wrapped in several layers of bedding.

 Her head had been wrapped in a white garbage bag, and her blood covered the closet floor.

Assistant Southern District Attorney Tracy Chatham said Luberda had given detectives three different stories in alibis. She said he claimed that, after a heated dispute in their kitchen, his wife fell and hit her head on a counter top.

“Unfortunately for Mr. Luberda, an autopsy was done,” said Chatham. “Mrs. Luberda died from blunt-force, trauma. So much so that she would have had to have fallen from a three-story building to sustain the degree of injury she suffered.”

James Jarvis, Lurberda’s defense attorney, said the case has multiple sides just as a board or 2-by-4  has more than one side.

“(Mr. Luberda) admitted that, in his shock and panic, he put a bag over (Mrs. Luberda’s) head to stop the blood from flowing,” said Jarvis. “He panicked, because he knew he would be blamed. There was no motive, no premeditation, no planning, no plotting and no scheming. It was an accident.”

A crime-scene technician was called to the stand to provide expert testimony on the state of the residence when authorities arrived. He said the mobile home’s front door was open and blood splotches covered the kitchen and living room floors and fixtures.

“It looks like someone or something was dragged down the hall,” the witness said. “You could actually see from the impression that was left in the dirt on the floor that something had been dragged (from the kitchen) to the (bedroom) closet.”

The majority of the blood found at the scene was determined to be that of Maria’s, the witness said, and three drops of Wayne Luberda’s blood were found on jeans and a T-shirt that had been placed inside of a laundry basket.

There were numerous pictures in the living room, but the only two pictures of Wayne and Maria together had been turned face down, the witness said.

The defendant kept his head fixed forward during most of the trial. But during a recess, he made several attempts to catch the gaze of one of Maria’s relatives who was attending the proceedings.

The second day of trial begins today, before Southern Circuit Judge Richard M. Cowart in Lowndes County Superior Court.

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