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Defense asks for trial delay in Pinecrest double murder

Becky Campbell • Updated Jul 11, 2017 at 4:17 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Defense attorneys in a double murder death penalty case in Carter County have asked a judge to delay the fast-approaching trial so they have more time to prepare mitigating evidence.

Eric Azotea, 45, of Johnson City, faces two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abuse of a corpse for the January 2015 deaths of Arthur Gibson Jr. and Amber Terrell. Their remains were found in the crawl space of the house where Azotea and his girlfriend lived in the Pinecrest community. Their bodies had been dismembered and burned, according to investigators.

Azotea’s trial is set for a two-week period beginning Sept. 11. Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street set several deadlines for attorneys in the case, including a status hearing Aug. 23, jury orientation and questionnaire distribution and completion Aug. 28 and pulling a list of potential jurors Aug. 29.

In the meantime, lead defense counsel Gene Scott filed a motion Monday asking Street to delay the trial because he needs more time to prepare mitigation evidence to be used for sentencing in the event Azotea is convicted.

Since it’s a death penalty case, there are two phases to the trial — a guilt phase and a sentencing phase. If Azotea is found guilty of first-degree murder, there would be a mini-trial for sentencing. Using the same jury panel, attorneys would present their respective cases on why or why not Azotea should be sentenced to death.

According to Scott’s motion, his team does not have enough time to sort through the records turned over by prosecutors prior to the current trial date.

“The state has provided the defendant with hundreds of pages of cell phone records, which must be reviewed by counsel and an expert consultant who was approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts on July 6,” Scott’s motion stated.

He also filed affidavits under seal in support of his motion.

Prosecutor and investigators believe Gibson and Terrell went to Azotea’s home Jan. 7, 2015, and were shot, apparently over a drug debt.

Gibson and Terrell, of Kingsport, were reported missing within days and ultimately their remains were found under Azotea’s house.

Azotea remains jailed without bond while the case is pending.

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