By Associated Press - Sunday, November 11, 2018

LOCK HAVEN, Pa. (AP) - A judge has cleared the way for jury selection to begin Tuesday in a homicide trial in the disappearance a quarter-century ago of a central Pennsylvania woman whose body has never been found.

Loyd Groves, 69, is charged with first- and third-degree murder in the death of 40-year-old Katherine Heckel, who was last seen in July 1991 leaving the former International Paper Co. mill in Lock Haven for lunch.

Authorities said Groves was a suspect immediately because of an extramarital affair he was having with Heckel, but he wasn’t arrested until January 2015 in Beaver.

Clinton County prosecutors allege that Heckel, who was declared legally dead in 1998, told Groves she wanted to end their brief relationship.

Defense attorney George Lepley has said he believes the prosecution will have a difficult time proving that Heckel is dead and that Groves killed her.

On Thursday, Senior Judge Kenneth Brown denied defense motions to dismiss the charges after the defense cited a news story about a search of the defendant’s former home and accused prosecutors of trying to prejudice the jury pool. The judge disagreed, although he said he didn’t agree with the prosecution’s actions.

Brown said he will assess during the jury selection process whether an impartial panel can be chosen in Clinton County.

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