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Bechler murder trial begins with sordid stories and testimony

December 08, 2000

first day of trial constantly jotting down notes as attorneys argued. He

frequently conferred with Barnett.

On Thursday, Lloyd told the jury -- 10 women and four men, including

alternates -- that she will present evidence to prove that Bechler had

murdered his wife for a hefty financial gain -- a $2.5-million life

insurance policy. Lloyd said Bechler had no money until he met Pegye

Bechler, who ran a flourishing physical therapy business.

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"His was really a 'rags to riches' story," she said. "He had a pair of

shorts to his name before he met his wife. He would wear the same shorts

every day. And when he had to go out, he'd wait for those shorts to get

out of the dryer."

But soon after their marriage, Bechler went from an old, faded pair of

shorts to slick Armani slacks, Lloyd said.

In contrast, Barnett said Bechler was a dutiful husband who pulled his

own weight financially.

"He paid more than what was required of him," Barnett said. "He wrote

checks for Pegye's Porsche, for his jeep and paid the mortgage every

month."

He added that before marrying, Bechler had $40,000 as a shareholder in

Bechler Corp., a company worth $15 million.

Barnett also said that Bechler lied to New about his wife's

disappearance to prove that he could be a bad boy -- spinning the "sick

tale" because of desire.

"Why did Eric do it? For sex with Tina New," Barnett said. "It's

nothing to be proud of. But it wasn't murder."

Barnett said he expects there will be at least 30 to 40 witnesses in

what he called a complex and unique trial. More prosecution witnesses are

scheduled to testify Monday.

"It's the case that has no body and secretly recorded tapes," Barnett

said. "It's about a man who lied because of his desire for a woman."

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