Zornes double-murder trial starts Monday in Moorhead
MOORHEAD - A murder trial that starts Monday in Clay County will shed some long-awaited light on a double-homicide case in which few details have been publicly disclosed.
Three weeks are set aside for the trial of Tracy Zornes, 38, who is accused of killing Megan Londo and John Cadotte on Feb. 19, 2010, and setting fire to the apartment at 901 9th Ave. S. where their burned bodies were found.
The defense has notified the court that Zornes may testify in the trial and assert an alibi defense.
Joe Parise, one of Zornes' two attorneys, said the alibi defense could be asserted even if Zornes doesn't take the stand.
"Mr. Zornes will make that decision during the trial," he said Friday.
Last week, Judge Galen Vaa ruled that prosecutors will be allowed to bring up Zornes' criminal history to impeach his credibility if he takes the stand.
His past convictions include introducing contraband into a state prison in January 1997, possessing stolen explosives in June 2001 and driving under the influence in May 2008. Zornes served time for all three convictions and was released about six months before the homicides.
Neither Parise nor Assistant County Attorney Heidi Davies would discuss the facts of the case. Much of the case hasn't been disclosed because the charges were filed via a grand jury indictment, and grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.
Police have said much of the evidence in the deaths of Cadotte, 20, and Londo, 25, was destroyed in the fire. Autopsies found blunt-force injuries and sharp-force injuries on both bodies, court records show.
Cadotte's car was found badly burned on a dirt road in rural Mahnomen County two days after the killings. Zornes, who was named a person of interest early in the investigation, was found by authorities March 4 in a makeshift shelter in the woods in rural Mahnomen County and was arrested on unrelated felony warrants, court documents state.
Vaa has ruled the state can't present evidence from a DNA sample police obtained from Zornes without a search warrant after his arrest. However, the judge said he will allow prosecutors to introduce a statement allegedly made by Zornes - "This isn't anything sexual" - before police took the DNA swab.
Davies said the selection of 12 jurors and three alternates from a pool of 60 potential jurors probably won't take more than a week, "but you just never know." Because it's a first-degree murder case, jurors must be questioned one at a time, she said.
The trial itself will likely last at least two weeks, she said.