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11:03 AM Tue, Nov. 13th

Cruz murder case likely to go to trial in January 2017

Cecilio Cruz, right, with his attorney. (Verde Independent/Courtesy photo)

Cecilio Cruz, right, with his attorney. (Verde Independent/Courtesy photo)

PRESCOTT - Cecilio Cruz, indicted on charges of murder and manslaughter in the 1997 killing of his girlfriend, Marisol Gonzalez, and her unborn son, will likely go to trial no earlier than January 2017, attorneys said in court Monday, Aug. 24.

Cruz and Gonzalez were both 17 when she was killed. Police said the two had been dating, and Gonzalez found out she was pregnant with Cruz's child after they broke up. Her body was discovered in an alley near her home on March 25, 1997, the same day she was set to have labor induced to deliver her baby boy. She had been shot in the face. Police have alleged that Cruz spoke with Gonzalez by phone the previous night.

One of his attorneys, Yavapai County Public Defender John Napper, has turned over his role in the case to Damon Rossi, who told Superior Court Judge Jennifer Campbell that Napper had become too busy with administrative duties to handle the case.

Cruz's other attorney, Grace Guisewhite, said that she anticipated a four-month trial, but that she did not want to set a trial date on Monday.

She told Campbell that she wasn't certain when the defense would be ready, because her office had received "a couple thousand pages of (evidence) in a box that appeared to have been shaken up."

Guisewhite also noted that she had identified 115 potential witnesses who would have to be interviewed, and added that the state had years to prepare its case.

She also pointed out that Rossi would have to "catch up on the case."

Deputy County Attorney Steve Young said, "I believe it is appropriate to set trial at this time," although he said he expected a 12-week trial, and would like to start it in January 2017.

Campbell said her judicial calendar "doesn't go out that far," so she would not set it yet.

Instead, she said, she wanted both sides to get together and find what, if any, issues could cause a delay, because once she schedules the trial, she doesn't want to move it.

She said she would hold a "comprehensive hearing" Nov. 17 to discuss scheduling and other matters and could set the date then.

Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy. Call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2038 or 928-642-7705.