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Trial date set in Amherst murder case

Trial date set in Amherst murder case

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A jury trial for an Amherst man charged with first-degree murder in the June 2019 shooting death of an elderly woman is tentatively set for Aug. 30.

Justin Jay Sales, 20, also faces one count of aggravated malicious wounding and two counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony. The charges date to June 25, 2019, when Doris Puleio, 92, was found dead and her daughter, Trudy Ann Goetz, was found injured at a house on Bobwhite Road.

Puleio had been shot in the torso and left arm, while Goetz suffered two piercing gunshot wounds to the torso and one that grazed her chest, prosecutors have said. Shell casings at the scene led investigators back to a handgun Sales’ girlfriend had bought for his friend, Takota Cash, in March, according to evidence presented at Sales’ previous court hearings.

Cash testified at a previous hearing to loaning Sales the gun one week prior to the shooting for what Cash assumed would be a robbery. Cash testified he got the gun back on July 1, 2019 with four rounds out of 15 Sales had loaded and said in court Sales told him he’d fired the gun in his yard.

Sales has been in custody since his arrest in Madison Heights a few weeks after the shooting and was denied a bond request in November. A trial initially was set for March 2020 and has been delayed a few more times because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amherst Circuit Court is preparing for the trial to last up to five days, according to online court records.

Jury trials in Amherst County are expected to resume in mid-April, according to an order signed by Circuit Court Judge Michael Garrett. A jury preparedness plan is posted on the Amherst County website for review at www.countyofamherst.com.

Sales is set to next appear in Amherst Circuit Court for a pretrial motion hearing July 27.

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