High-Profile Murder Cases on Trial in '09; Heading the List: The Edenfield Family Will Be Tried in the Death of a Boy at a Mobile Home Park in Brunswick

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Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK -- The first of three family members charged with the sexual abuse slaying of 6-year-old Christopher Michael Barrios Jr. could stand trial this year, prosecutors said.

David Edenfield, 59, of Brunswick faces the death penalty if convicted of malice murder in the killing almost two years ago.

District Attorney Stephen Kelley wants to bring Edenfield to trial in late summer or fall. Edenfield's son, George, a convicted child molester, also faces the death penalty in the slaying. George Edenfield, 33, could face a special civil trial by the end of the year to determine if he is mentally competent to be tried on the criminal charges, Kelley said.

No date has been set for David or George Edenfield. Nor has a trial date been set for Peggy Edenfield, 57, who faces a life sentence in the killing. She is married to David Edenfield and is George Edenfield's mother.

The Edenfields top the list of high-profile Southeast Georgia homicide cases expected to be tried this year in the adjacent Brunswick and Waycross judicial circuits. Between them, the judicial circuits encompass 11 counties.

BRUNSWICK CIRCUIT

The five-county Brunswick circuit had 25 homicide cases awaiting trial as of Friday. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in at least seven of those cases, Kelley said.

None is bigger than those for the accused killers of Christopher Barrios Jr., a case that drew national attention.

The boy was killed March 8, 2007. His body was discovered a week later inside a black plastic trash bag hidden in woods about 2 miles from the Canal Mobile Home Park where he lived.

The three Edenfields were the Barrios family's neighbors. They remain jailed without bail on malice murder, kidnapping and child molestation charges.

Peggy Edenfield has agreed to testify against her husband and son in exchange for prosecutors not asking that she get the death penalty.

Kelley expects pretrial hearings in David Edenfield's case to resume within a couple months. It's been slow going, he said, because of the legal procedures mandated by Georgia's death penalty law.

"It's all time-consuming, but it's part of Georgia's death penalty process," he said.

Nonetheless, Kelley wants to try one homicide case a month in the circuit. But that might not be possible because state budget cuts have forced prosecutors to furlough employees one day each month. Further bogging down the trial docket, the budget cuts also eliminated senior judges. The retired judges continue to try cases and help reduce overloaded dockets.

Two other circuit death penalty cases may be tried by the end of the year, he said.

In Wayne County, Bobby Rex Stribling, a 46-year-old career felon, is charged with beating to death Judge Glenn Thomas Jr. …