YAKIMA, Wash. — Opening statements in the trial of two men blamed for the 1997 stabbing death of a Selah woman were delayed 24 hours Monday after two jurors were felled by illness.
Michael O. Gorski, 62, and Frank E. Brugnone, 59, are being tried jointly in Yakima County Superior Court for their alleged roles in the slaying of Carolyn Clift, 56, who was found stabbed to death in her apartment in Selah on the night of Aug. 28, 1997.
A jury was selected last week, but two jurors became ill over the weekend for unrelated reasons.
Although the jury has two alternates, placing them on the panel so early in the case could cause a mistrial — and great expense to the court — if any other jurors get sick or are forced to drop out for some reason.
As a result, Judge Ruth Reukauf ordered a one-day recess in case one of the two jurors makes a sufficient recovery. It is too late at this stage to pick more alternates.
Gorski and Brugnone were arrested in 2011 after Selah police detectives said advances in DNA testing found Gorski’s alleged DNA in preserved evidence from underneath Clift’s fingernails.
Brugnone was charged as an accomplice after detectives said he made statements after his arrest that put him at the scene of the crime and implicated Gorski as the killer.
The defendants came under suspicion in recent years after a witness said they were in the parking lot of Clift’s apartment complex on the night of the crime, detectives said.
According to an arrest affidavit, detectives said the same witness claimed Brugnone asked the witness to be his alibi because he had been at Clift’s apartment the night she was killed.
The murder was Selah’s first in 10 years, and the last since then. The trial is expected to last about a week and a half.
• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.