Jury selection began today in the murder trial of Rome man Jason P. D’Avolio, accused of shooting his wife Kerrilee in their Belmont Street home and throwing her body in a dumpster.
The trial is expected to take at least two weeks, possibly more — and is the first major jury trial in Oneida County Court under the new COVID-19 restrictions.
In order to ensure social distancing during the selection process, only 39 potential jurors were called today in order to pick 12 impartial jurors and four alternates. If a jury is not picked by the end of today, court officials said another group will be called on Tuesday until they have a full panel.
Once the trial actually begins, half the jury will be seated in the normal jury box, while the other half will be seated in the public section, partitioned off from the room. There are only about four public seats for the families of those involved. The rest of the public — including Daily Sentinel reporters — will be in an overflow room watching the trial televised.
Judge Michael L. Dwyer opened jury selection with a speech about civic duty and responsibility. Dwyer said this is the third jury trial to be held in County Court since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, and those charges were not as serious as murder. After Dwyer’s opening statements, 13 potential jurors were picked to undergo questioning to see if they would be fit to serve during the trial — questions about whether they personally knew any of the potential witnesses or had any other reason why they could not serve.
D’Avolio, age 48, is charged with one count each of second-degree murder and concealment of a human corpse. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted. D’Avolio previously turned down a plea offer of 20 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors said D’Avolio shot Kerrilee, age 32, in the back of the head with a rifle in their Belmont Street home sometime between July 28 and 29, 2019. Prosecutors said D’Avolio then cleaned up the scene and wrapped her body in a blanket, tossing her into a dumpster near their home. Authorities have said that Kerrilee was seeking a divorce from D’Avolio.
Authorities said D’Avolio tossed the rifle into the Barge Canal and then gathered up the couple’s three children. He took them to his brother’s auto shop in New Hartford, where authorities said D’Avolio told his brother what happened. D’Avolio was soon taken into custody and he told investigators that Kerrilee shot herself in the back of the head with the rifle, and that he only discovered her body, according to previous hearings in this case.
Prosecuting the case will be Assistant District Attorney Joshua L. Bauer and First Assistant District Attorney Michael Coluzza. Representing D’Avolio will be Public Defender Chief Trial Counsel Leland D. McCormac III and First Assistant Public Defender Jonathan B. Strobe.