Opening arguments are set to begin at 2:30 this afternoon in the murder trial of a man accused of killing a Columbus real-estate agent who was about to have him evicted from a Pine Needle Drive home she and her husband owned in Columbus’ Windtree subdivision off Macon Road.
A month ago Ricky Powell, 42, turned down a deal to plead guilty and get a life sentence in the 2008 slaying of Herta Bailey, 70. A judge then set his trial date for today.
Jury selection took most of the morning, with a panel of seven men and seven women being seated shortly after 1 p.m.
Superior Court Judge John Allen gave the jurors a lunch break. Assistant District Attorney Crawford Seals is the lead prosecutor and Robert Wadkins Jr., the son of public defender Robert Wadkins, is the volunteer counsel representing Powell.
Authorities said Powell had a 6 p.m. appointment to meet Bailey at her Land Inc. office at 5710 Whitesville Road on Sept. 29, 2008. Her employer, Jack Land, found blood in the office the next day and called Bailey’s family, who told police she was missing.
Tracking Bailey’s credit cards, investigators found Powell had used one to make payments to the Columbus Water Works and to Atmos Energy. Video from a security camera recorded one of the transactions, so police got a warrant charging Powell with credit card fraud.
After his arrest, Powell took detectives to the 1300 block of 51st Street and showed them where he had left Bailey’s 1999 Mustang convertible with her body in the trunk, police said. Investigators believe Powell beat Bailey in her office before trying to hide her body.
Bailey’s homicide made real-estate agents more cautious about meeting alone with someone in an office after hours or at property for sale or rent, said her daughter, Eileen Oravik, who’s also in the business. She said she now has a friend or coworker accompany her when meeting strangers.
Bailey had witnessed violence when she was just a child, her daughters said.
Oravik and her sister, Tina Womack, said their mother as a young girl living in what was then Breslau, Germany, witnessed horrors during the Soviet siege of that city during the last days of World War II: She saw relatives killed with pitchforks. She and her family fled to the countryside, where a farmer took them in.
Later she met their father at a dance and emigrated to the United States, where she became a naturalized citizen who dearly loved this country and the opportunities it offered, Oravik said. “It represented safety, security, opportunity to succeed,” the daughter said.