TAMPA (FOX 13) - On Kristen Kelley’s 34th birthday, there would be no birthday cake or celebration. Instead, the day would be marked with shock, tears, and heartbreak.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Samantha Ward read the charges against defendant Michael Clark to a group of 70 potential jurors this morning. "The burned body of Kristen Kelley was found inside that van.”
Prosecutors say last October – on her birthday – Kelley’s body was discovered in a burned car along Interstate 75 in Sarasota County. They say Kelley's boyfriend, Michael Clark, beat her to death and then set his car on fire to cover it up.
"An autopsy showed Kelley died of blunt-force trauma injuries," continued Judge Ward.
With so much publicity in Sarasota, the trial was moved to Tampa. Today, potential jurors were asked if they had heard about the case, and if so, if could they set it aside and be fair and impartial.
Some said no.
"I'm a victim of domestic violence and I also lost a child to another," said one such potential juror.
Another potential juror shared her own troubled past. "Back in the 70's, I was married and had a gun to my head because of an angry husband. I didn't think it would bother me until just now.”
The majority, though, said they could be fair and keep an open mind.
Opening statements are set to start Tuesday morning.