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Molestation trial jury selection to begin

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of molesting two girls -- and allegedly trying to have them murdered to prevent their testimony.

Defendant Matthew Alan Grose, 45, is charged with more than 10 felony counts, including lewd or lascivious conduct with a child age 14 or under, aggravated sexual assault, attempted murder and solicitation of murder.

Prosecutors believe Grose molested two 13-year-old girls between February and March 2007. Fearing that the victims would testify against him, he allegedly tried to hire a hit man to kill the victims.

The hit man who met with Grose, however, was actually an undercover officer with the Merced County District Attorney's Office, according to prosecutors.

Grose has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney, Tom Pfeiff, declined when asked to comment on the specifics of the case Tuesday. "We're looking forward to trial," Pfeiff said.

Deputy District Attorney Rob Carroll, the prosecutor in the case, also declined comment on Tuesday, saying he'd rather wait until Grose's trial is over.

A fellow inmate of Grose's testified at a September 2007 preliminary hearing that the defendant had offered $20,000 to have the victims killed. The inmate said Grose had also drawn a map of where the victims lived, according to court documents.

That inmate, however, contacted investigators after learning about Grose's plan. An undercover investigator with the District Attorney's Office then visited Grose at the John Latorraca Correctional Center on Aug. 23, 2007, posing as a hit man.

The undercover officer testified that he was wearing a hidden camera, according to court documents. The officer testified that Grose offered him $3,000 as a "good faith" payment to have the girls killed. The undercover officer also showed Grose pictures of the girls' mothers, asking him if he was "sure" that he wanted to go through with the killings. Grose replied "yes," according to the officer.

When allegedly plotting the girls' murders, Grose referred to his victims in code, calling them "cars," according to prosecutors. At one point he allegedly wrote a note asking, "How long from today will it take for the cars to be taken to the wrecking yard?"

The case is eerily similar to that of Charles Robert Wilson. Wilson, 33, was convicted earlier this year for molesting his two children between 2002 and 2004. Wilson was also convicted of trying to hire a hit man from the Merced County Jail to kill his victims. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Grose is being held at the Merced County Main Jail in lieu of $2.4 million. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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