PAXTON – A Gibson City man accused of murdering his wife last fall is a free man this morning.
Due to the inadmissibility of a key piece of evidence and the unavailability of a witness, Ford County State's Attorney Tony Lee on Tuesday dismissed murder charges against Robert Osborne.
The 28-year-old man was accused of beating Danyelle M. Osborne, 26, to death on Oct. 30, 2005. She was reported missing that day by family members and her body, which had been set on fire after her death, was found under a bridge southeast of Gibson City on Oct. 31.
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning that Lee could refile them at any time, but when asked if he would do that, Lee refused to comment.
The dismissal came after Judge Steve Pacey's ruling on Friday that Lee could not introduce evidence that there was blood found on the athletic shoes that Osborne was wearing when he was arrested Nov. 1.
The shoes had been in the custody of the Gibson City Police Department since Osborne's arrest, but it wasn't until two weeks ago that Lee and the police officer helping him prepare for trial discovered that they hadn't been sent to the state crime lab for analysis. They sent the shoes on Feb. 14 and were given preliminary results the next day that there was blood on them.
Lee then requested the lab personnel at Joliet to expedite DNA analysis of the shoes in order to have the results available for Osborne's trial, which was scheduled to have begun Tuesday.
In a hearing Friday before Pacey, Osborne's attorney, Harvey Welch of Urbana, objected vehemently to the late introduction of the evidence, arguing that Lee had not exercised "due diligence" in preparing for trial. He also argued against Lee's request for a continuance of the trial to Feb. 27, saying there was no way he could absorb all the information about the DNA analysis and properly defend his client against such evidence, assuming it turned out to be Mrs. Osborne's blood on the shoes.
Lee had proposed the short continuance because Osborne would have been in custody 120 days on Feb. 28 and by right, had to be tried within four months of his arrest.
Welch argued that if the case had gone to trial and Osborne was convicted, an appeals court would have found him ineffective for not properly defending against the DNA evidence. And had he agreed to a longer continuance, an appeals court would have found him ineffective for waiving his client's right to a speedy trial.