The Valdosta Daily Times
While hushed voices whispered of the possibility of a mistrial as the murder trial moved into a third day Wednesday morning in Superior Court, the jury found Wayne Luberda guilty on all counts regarding the murder of his wife Maria at their Wilkerson Avenue residence in October of 2011.
Wayne Dean Luberda was convicted of malice murder, concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.
Luberda and his attorney rose in anticipation of the verdict. But after Luberda’s conviction was announced, he simply shut his eyes and hung his head.
While most of the jury appeared to be at ease as the honorable Judge Richard Cowart polled them each on their verdicts, a few jurors appeared slightly unsettled. However, each juror restated his or her verdict before the public with confidence and conviction.
On Oct. 7, 2011, Luberda was convicted of striking his wife Maria with a blunt object, fragmenting the back of her skull into five large shards. He wrapped her head in a garbage bag, her body in bedding, and concealed her in a closet for several days.
While Luberda testified that he had only pushed his wife during a heated dispute, the medical examiner who oversaw Maria’s autopsy stated that it was next to impossible to inflict such damage from a push. With over 2,700 autopsies under her belt, she stated that the wounds were synonymous with receiving a gunshot wound or falling from at least two stories.
“If she had fallen and struck her head on a counter, you’d see a laceration of the scalp -- but not that large,” said the witness as she referred to an image of Maria’s lifted scalp. “You’d see a linear fracture, and the skull fragments wouldn’t have penetrated the dura mater of her brain.”
It would have to have been a heavy object, said the witness.
No heavy object was found at the couple’s residence, but several days had elapsed between Maria’s murder and discovery. Luberda was arrested in his car, and detectives were unable to find the clothes that he said he was wearing during the altercation with his wife.
District Attorney David Miller commended the Valdosta Police Department in their transparency. He said he and his staff were allowed to observe the scene shortly after Maria’s body was discovered and the scene was secured.
“Investigators provide us with videos and reports in every case we take up,” said Miller. “But being there on the scene, in 3D so to say, helps us tremendously in building our cases and proving them beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Miller stated that he was highly appreciative of the job that Assistant District Attorney Tracy Chapman and the police department did in prosecuting the case. And he said his entire office thanks the jury for their attentiveness in weighing this case.
In Georgia, the minimum sentence for malice murder [O.C.G.A. 16-5-1] is life imprisonment. Conviction of concealing a death [O.C.G.A. 16-10-31] and tampering with evidence [O.C.G.A. 16-10-94] each carry minimum sentences of a year and imprisonment and a maximum of ten years plus fines.
A pre-sentence hearing will be held on Nov. 16, 2012 at the Lowndes County Courtroom Annex.