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October 22, 2013

Indiana man on trial for first of three murders

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Accused killer William Clyde Gibson III described how he murdered a 75-year-old woman, mutilated her body, then went to have a drink at a local bar, according to a videotaped interview shown during the the first day of his trial.

The interview depicts a gruesome murder and a man struggling with his demons leading to the killing of Christine Whitis, a longtime friend of Gibson's late mother. Gibson's trial began Monday in a Floyd County, Ind., court. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Gibson is also charged in the murders of Stephanie Kirk, 35, and Karen Hodella, 45, for which he is scheduled for separate trials.

Prosecutor Keith Henderson told a jury that Gibson, 56, lured Whitis to his New Albany home on April 18, 2012, on the pretense he was grieving the death of his mother three months earlier. He sexually assaulted Whitis before killing her, Henderson said.

The next day he mutilated her body then took her minivan to eat lunch at a Hooters restaurant. One of his sisters came by the house, discovered Whitis' body in the garage, and called police.

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, started with jurors watching more than an hour of a video recording of a police interview with Gibson. In the recording Gibson admits to murdering Whitis, dragging her to the garage and mutilating her body before going for a drink at a local bar. A friend later came by his house for drinks, unaware of the murder or of Whitis' body.

During opening remarks, the prosecutor described Whitis as an active, vibrant widow who was close to her son and grandchildren. “She is loved, and she loved,” Henderson said.

Kirk, who went missing in March 2012, was found buried in Gibson's backyard eight days after Whitis' body was discovered. Hodella, a Florida woman, was visiting the area when she went missing a decade earlier.  Her body was discovered in a wooded area near the Ohio River in January 2003.

Gary Popp writes for the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville, Ind.

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