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Unusual circumstances bookend third day of convicted murderer's retrial in N.J.

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jan 04 2013 07:44:45 PM CST
BELVIDERE, N.J. -

Testimony came to an unusual end Friday afternoon in the retrial of Thor Frey, who was convicted four years ago of killing of an elderly woman in her Phillipsburg home in 2006. The start of Friday's testimony was also delayed by an unusual circumstance.

A peculiar dispute erupted at about 2:45 p.m., when defense attorney Michael Priarone wanted Palmer Twp., Northampton Co., K-9 officer Glenn Sipel to repeat the commands he made -- in Czechoslovakian -- to his Hungarian-born German shepherd Khan on Aug. 24, 2006, when Sipel and Kahn captured Frey.

Sipel said he used the foreign language to order the canine to bite Frey in the leg and drag him out of a heavy thicket in a wooded field behind the Travel Inn Hotel in Plainfield Twp., Northampton Co.

Sipel testified that he gave his canine partner three commands in Czechoslovakian -- "track, bite and release" -- and only ordered the dog to bite Frey after Frey ignored his commands to give himself up.

Prosecutor Kelly Shelton objected to Priarone's request, and Judge Ann R. Bartlett she was "not inclined to have Czechoslovakian commands uttered into the record," even though Priarone said they were needed to establish "the state of mind of the person hearing the commands in a foreign language."

After an eight-minute conference with the two lawyers, Bartlett asked Sipel to return Monday at 9 a.m. to continue his testimony and then sent the jury home for the weekend.

Earlier, Pennsylvania State trooper James Bruchak testified that he had requested the K-9 unit after Frey fled from Room 136 of the hotel just before police found out which room was his.

He also said Frey was found with a white tube sock with $2,400 in 50 and 20 bills in it. Bruchak identified the sock for the jury.

Travel Inn Hotel manager Rujjal Modi testified that Frey registered under his original name, Theodore LaCour, on Aug. 19, 2006, the day after 75-year-old Mary Bostian was found bound and suffocated and a safe her son had filled with $25,000 stolen from her home.

At Shelton's request, Modi left the witness box and stood before an easel to draw a picture of the hotel's layout.

There was an odd occurrence before the jury was seated Friday morning. Judge Bartlett met with each member separately in her chambers because she was concerned that they may have glanced at a newspaper vendor box near the courthouse and saw the word "retrial" in a headline.

Officials said jurors were not supposed to know this is Frey's second trial.

After the judge talked to the jurors for about a half-hour, testimony resumed.

Two witnesses placed Frey and his convicted accomplice in Bostian's death, Donald O'Grady, at the Snack Bar, a tavern on Fillmore Street in Phillipsburg, the night before Bostian was murdered.

Bartender Tara Dreitline of Alpha, N.J., testified O'Grady and Frey came into the Snack Bar on Aug. 17, 2006, and were drinking into the early morning hours of Aug. 18.

She said neither man appeared intoxicated, and that they both left the bar when she did, at closing time, at 2 a.m.

Eric Abel of Phillipsburg, a Jersey Central Power & Light Co. employee, corroborated Dreitline's testimony, saying he did not think O'Grady and Frey were drunk when they left the bar behind him and Dreitline, whom he was walking home.