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Trial starts for alleged Arizona serial killer

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of an alleged serial killer charged with nine murders and a string of other violent crimes that terrorized the Phoenix area for nearly a year.

Judge Warren Granville gave prospective jurors in Maricopa County Superior Court a brief overview of the case against Mark Goudeau, the accused "Baseline Killer" who went on a crime rampage from August 2005 through June 2006.

Goudeau, 46, who sat at the defense table in a black suit, dark blue shirt and a patterned tie, faces 74 felony counts including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, sexual and aggravated assault and armed robbery. The state is seeking the death penalty.

It is expected to take about one month for the 12 jurors and six alternates to be selected to try Goudeau, a construction worker and ex-con who was arrested more than four years ago.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin June 6 in the trial, which is expected to last through February, court officials said.

As the judge gave instructions to potential jurors, Goudeau sat motionless with his hands clasped in front of him, staring and blinking nervously.

He is already serving a sentence of 438 years in prison for sexually assaulting two sisters in a south Phoenix park. One of the sisters was pregnant.

Goudeau, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest in the driveway of his home in September 2006, faces the death penalty if convicted on one of the nine murder charges.

His arrest came after a 250-member task force identified him in the crimes, initially clustered around the Baseline Road area of south Phoenix. The crimes soon spread to streets in the vicinity of Goudeau's home.

Eight of the dead were women. The last victim was Carmen Miranda, 37, who was found shot to death after being abducted from a car wash near Goudeau's home.

In court documents in February, Granville gave a hint of the difficult case ahead.

"The culprit left little or no physical evidence of his identity at any of the crime scenes and eye witnesses are rare," Granville wrote. "The surviving witnesses provided only general descriptions that were not consistent with one another."

He said homicide detectives reviewed thousands of tips and interviewed hundreds of people before arresting Goudeau.

Goudeau's lawyers may bring up another person identified by one detective who may be linked to some of the crimes.

"Defendant will claim that the task force's investigation was tunnel-visioned and therefore resulted in a flawed conclusion," Granville wrote in court documents.

The Baseline Killer case was one of two serial killer investigations that set Phoenix residents on edge five years ago.

The other inquiry, the so-called "Serial Shooter" spree, left eight dead and 17 wounded. Dale Hausner was convicted of six of the murders and sentenced to death in 2009.

Co-accused Samuel Dieteman admitted to two murders and was sentenced to life in prison.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Peter Bohan)