Attorney removes himself from urn theft case in Merced

10/01/2013 5:19 PM

10/01/2013 5:21 PM

An attorney representing one of two defendants charged with stealing nine urns from a Merced cemetery asked to be taken off the case Tuesday.

Citing an unspecified “conflict of interest,” defense attorney Bill Davis told the court he could no longer represent defendant Marc Reid.

“Yes, I’m out,” Davis informed Judge Mark V. Bacciarini in Merced County Superior Court.

Reid, 55, and Richard Madsen, 68, have pleaded not guilty to 20 felony charges in connection with the theft of nine urns on May 8 from the Evergreen Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Merced. Police said the human remains were thrown away in a trash can.

The judge on Tuesday instructed Davis to contact the law office of Morse and Pfeiff for a new lawyer.

“I will inform them today so they can start getting up to speed,” Davis responded.

The judge ordered both defendants to return to court Friday.

Outside the courtroom on Tuesday, Davis declined to comment on the conflict, citing attorney-client confidentiality.

News of the conflict delayed the preliminary hearing in the case for the second time in less than a month. Conflicting schedules for the attorneys and the judge delayed a hearing on Sept.18 after two witnesses had testified.

During the first part of the hearing, a key prosecution witness, who is serving jail time on an unrelated theft conviction, changed his testimony on the witness stand.

Jason Todd Baker, 36, testified that he lied to police earlier this year when he claimed witnessing Madsen and Reid unloading the urns from a van and grinding them up for scrap.

In testimony, Baker claimed he was “strung out” on heroin and lied to investigators hoping the District Attorney’s Office would cut him a deal in his own case.

Prosecutors have more evidence to present in the case.

According to police reports, Madsen wrote a letter apologizing for “my part in the taking of the urns.”

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to conclude next week.

Both defendants remain in custody at the Merced County Jail.

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