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Bechler expected to take the stand

January 05, 2001

Deepa Bharath

SANTA ANA -- Suspected murderer Eric Bechler could take the witness

stand, his attorney said Thursday, giving the Newport Beach man a chance

to speak out in his own defense.

Defense attorney John Barnett said it is "very possible" his client

will testify as soon as prosecutors finish presenting their witnesses --

which could be as early as next week.

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Bechler, 33, is accused of murdering his wife, Pegye Bechler, during a

boating trip off the coast of Newport Beach in 1997. He has pleaded not

guilty to the charge.

Barnett declined to comment on what Bechler might say if called to

testify but added that it is not unusual for defendants to take the stand

in their own trials. However, it is not a common practice, either, he

said.

"There's no set path," Barnett said. "Each case is different."

Bechler will probably be the first witness or one of the first few

witnesses he will call, Barnett said.

"He's always wanted to talk," said Barnett on Bechler's willingness to

take the stand.

Bechler was arrested in October 1999 after investigators secretly

recorded conversations between him and his former girlfriend Tina New. In

the tapes, he reportedly admitted to killing his 38-year-old wife.

New testified last month that Bechler on another occasion described

the grizzly murder in detail, telling her he hit his wife on the head

with a dumbbell and dumped her body in the Pacific Ocean with 70 pounds

of weights.

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