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Kentucky New Era

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Jury selection today in Cecere murder trial

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Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004 12:00 am

CLARKSVILLE — Montgomery Circuit Court officials are in Springfield today for jury selection in the murder case against the husband of a Fort Campbell, Ky., soldier who disappeared in 1996.

Max Roybal, 46, will stand trial beginning at 8 a.m. Monday to face allegations that he killed his wife, Sgt. Laura Cecere. He is charged with first-degree murder.

The trial will be at the courthouse here. Court officials cited pre-trial publicity as the reason why a jury outside the area was being selected to hear the case.

Cecere's body was never found, and the circumstances surrounding her disappearance have never been known. But her jawbone was mailed anonymously to television station TV-43 in Hopkinsville, Ky., with a letter claiming her death was accidental.

Cecere was last seen alive by a surveillance camera at Wal-Mart Supercenter here on Fort Campbell Boulevard on Dec. 6, 1996. She left work at the Sabalauski Air Assault School on post and, according to previous court testimony, said she was going home to feed her dogs.

A short time later, she used a bank card to withdraw $30 from an automatic teller machine at Wal-Mart. Her pickup truck was found abandoned at a nearby apartment complex on Dec. 23.

Roybal was not charged with Cecere's slaying until July 2001, although authorities first identified him as a suspect in 1997.

Cecere and Roybal were married on Sept. 1, 1994, although they did not live together for a period of time. She lived in a rental house in Oak Grove, Ky., and Roybal resided in rural Montgomery County.

The marriage apparently was arranged so that Cecere could collect additional housing allowances from the Army. Her family has confirmed that Cecere was gay.

At the time he was charged with Cecere's death, Roybal also was charged with the Nov. 11, 1994, death of Karen C. Anderson, whom he was dating at the time. On March 23, 2002, a jury acquitted Roybal of Anderson's death.

Prosecutors had alleged that Roybal killed Anderson so he could collect approximately $86,000 from a life insurance policy. He also was the beneficiary listed on Cecere's life insurance policy.

Melony Leazer can be reached by telephone at 887-3239 or by e-mail at mleazer@kentuckynewera.com.

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