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Published May 07, 2012, 10:38 AM

North Dakota judge won't move Jamestown man's murder trial

JAMESTOWN, N.D. (AP) — A judge has refused to move the murder trial of a Jamestown man accused of killing a Somali immigrant out of Stutsman County.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. (AP) — A judge has refused to move the murder trial of a Jamestown man accused of killing a Somali immigrant out of Stutsman County.

Leron Howard, 34, has pleaded not guilty to murder and criminal conspiracy in the April 2011 death of 18-year-old Abdi Ali Ahmed, who was beaten and stabbed before his body was dumped in a ditch near Spiritwood.

Defense attorney Steve Mottinger asked Judge Thomas Merrick to move the trial out of Jamestown because of local news coverage about the case. Merrick denied the request but his order allows for it to be reconsidered if it becomes evident during jury selection that finding an impartial local jury would be difficult, The Jamestown Sun reported (http://bit.ly/IEGvGW ).

Merrick earlier ordered that the area from which jurors will be drawn will extend beyond Stutsman County.

One person already has been convicted in the case. A Jamestown jury in February found Janelle Cave, 22, guilty of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy but not guilty of murder. She was sentenced to serve 11 years in prison and will be called to testify in Howard's trial, which is to begin Aug. 14.

Cave testified during her trial that she helped dispose of evidence because she was scared of Howard. Witnesses testified that Howard and Ahmed had been together at a bar early in the morning of the day Ahmed was killed, and one witness testified about seeing Ahmed, Howard and Cave at a house party later that morning.

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Information from: The Jamestown Sun, http://www.jamestownsun.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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