Judge rejects bid for new trial by Omaha man who says he was framed for woman's slaying

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OMAHA, Nebraska — An Omaha man convicted of killing a college student whose body has never been found will remain behind bars.

Douglas County District Judge J. Russell Derr on Friday rejected Christopher Edwards's plea for a new trial, The Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1DNNbOB ).

Edwards was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2006 disappearance of 19-year-old Jessica O'Grady and was sentenced to 100 years to life in prison. Edwards has maintained he's innocent and that David Kofoed, former commander of Douglas County crime scene investigation unit, planted some of the evidence used to convict him.

Kofoed was convicted in 2010 of tampering with evidence in a double slaying in which two men were wrongly charged and spent months in jail.

In 2012, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the Douglas County court should permit Edwards an evidentiary hearing on his claims that he was framed.

On Friday, the judge rejected those claims, saying Edwards' attorneys established no signs of any evidence tampering at the scene of O'Grady's death.

Investigators say O'Grady's blood soaked a mattress, streaked the ceiling and dotted a headboard, alarm clock, clothes basket and other items in Edwards' basement bedroom.

The judge noted that even before Kofoed arrived at the scene, investigators had found O'Grady's blood in the bedroom, in the trunk of Edwards' car, on the blade of a sword and on the handle of pruning shears.

The judge also rejected Edwards' claim that his trial attorney, Steve Lefler, had a conflict of interest, because Lefler also served as Kofoed's defense attorney. The judge said Lefler said he had no knowledge that there were any questions about Kofoed's integrity until Kofoed called asking for representation more than a year after Edwards' trial.

Edwards' attorneys said they are reviewing the judge's order and are considering options to both ask the judge to clarify his findings and to appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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