LOVINGSTON —Attorneys on Tuesday argued what evidence would be used in the case against a Nelson County woman charged with murder and arson.
The case against Linda Campbell Blackwell, 58, of Lovingston, is set for trial March 4. She is charged with murder, obtaining money by false pretenses and arson in connection with an Aug. 2, 2009, fire that resulted in the death of James Shelton Sr.
She also faces two charges each of arson and obtaining money by false pretenses in connection with two other house fires on the same property on Creekview Lane in Lovingston in February 2012 and May 2013.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge J. Michael Gamble ruled that evidence regarding the statistical probability of fire would not be allowed. It would be “challenging,” he said, to allow the expert’s opinion be used as proof in the case.
Blackwell’s attorney, Paul Valois filed a motion Oct. 28 that claimed a defective dishwasher caused the 2012 fire. Martin asked the court that only evidence related to Blackwell’s particular dishwasher be permitted, as opposed to generic statistics related to dishwasher recalls and fires. Gamble ruled in favor of Martin.
Whirlpool Corp. filed a motion to quash a subpoena filed by the court on behalf of the defense for information about dishwasher recalls, defects and accidents. The corporation referred to the request as a “fishing expedition,” a term Valois described as inaccurate. He asked for the issue to be tabled, a request granted by Gamble.
Valois also filed a motion to preclude evidence pertaining to litigation between the defendant and a family member of Shelton’s, general animosity between parties or any intent to kill, which he described as “irrelevant” in a felony murder case.
Charges of felony murder typically are filed when a death occurs in the commission of another felony and does not necessitate a specific intent to kill.
Martin agreed to use discretion. Valois’ motion was overruled “for the time being,” Gamble said, adding certain topics would have to be dealt with over the course of the trial.
Martin also filed another motion to use as evidence certain circumstances in Blackwell’s past that he believes show a pattern of behavior that would support the commonwealth’s case. Gamble overruled the motion, explaining it could put information in front of the jury that would alter the presumption of innocence in the case.
Blackwell, of Lovingston, was arrested more than four years after the 2009 fire following a years-long investigation by the Virginia State Police and Nelson County Sheriff’s Office.