- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

BAY MINETTE, Ala. (AP) - Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a south Alabama woman accused of being part of a group of relatives and friends who used children for sex.

More than 70 potential jurors reported to court in Baldwin County for the case of Wendy Wood Holland, 35, after the judge overruled a last-minute request from the defense to delay the trial.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors questioned panel members about whether they had strong opinions about the highly publicized case and whether they knew each other.

Mitzi Johnson-Theodoro, Holland’s lawyer, asked how many potential jurors had seen media reports about the case. More than two dozen potential jurors said they had.

The judge previously refused defense requests to move the trial outside of the county because of intense media coverage.

Holland, wearing a brightly colored top, sat beside her attorney at the defense table. She has pleaded not guilty to sodomy, sexual abuse, sexual torture and endangering the welfare of a child.

The judge said attorneys would finish picking a jury Tuesday morning, followed by opening statements.

Holland is an aunt of 19-year-old Brittney Wood, who went missing from Mobile in 2012 and hasn’t been seen since. Eight of Wood’s relatives and three family friends have been charged with multiple felonies in two counties since the teen’s disappearance.

Investigators believe Wood was among multiple young people who were sexually abused, but the charges against Holland don’t involve the missing teen as a victim.

Court records show prosecution witnesses could include two relatives who already have pleaded guilty to being part of what authorities describe as a family sex ring.

A friend of the family was convicted in October in the first trial to result from the investigation.

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