GRETNA, La. – The trial was set to begin Monday for a man authorities say killed a stripper he and his girlfriend lured from a New Orleans French Quarter bar, then dismembering her and dumping her into the Gulf of Mexico.
Both Terry Speaks and Margaret Sanchez have pleaded not guilty to charges including second-degree murder of 24-year-old Jaren Lockhart, who worked at a Bourbon Street club and lived with her boyfriend in a run-down motel.
Sanchez' trial has not been scheduled.
Before the trial opens in a suburban New Orleans courtroom, Jefferson Parish Judge Stephen Grefer has scheduled hearings on two defense requests.
Speaks wants to fire public defender John Benz.
Benz wants jurors to learn the criminal history of two prosecution witnesses, both jailhouse informants set to testify against Speaks.
Conviction on the second-degree murder charge would mean a mandatory life sentence. Speaks and Sanchez also are charged with obstructing justice by dismembering Lockhart's body, and with conspiracy to do so.
Lockhart's torso washed ashore on a beach in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, days after her boyfriend reported her missing. There was a stab wound in the chest; tattoos and body piercings helped identify her. Other body parts and clothing washed ashore in Pass Christian and Long Beach, Mississippi.
Surveillance video showed Speaks and Sanchez leaving Temptations Gentlemens Club with Lockhart on June 6, 2012, the night before she was reported missing.
But a defense pretrial motion said FBI agents and local investigators had uncovered no evidence to show Lockhart was ever in Speaks' apartment or in Sanchez' car.
Prosecutors have said they linked Speaks and Sanchez to Lockhart through other testimony, surveillance video and license plate photos, as well as a "damning" email in which Speaks wrote to Sanchez while in federal prison, where she was serving time for an unrelated crime after his arrest.
Part of a section of the email quoted in a prosecution motion says, "I want to tell everything to the people just so you can suffer like me. I did everything to clean up the mess we made and where's the thanks ... You're the one they'll fry and not me."