LISBON - Defense attorneys for Jack "J.C." Amato Jr. have been focusing their attention on a certain bullet held in evidence in his wife Tonia's murder as both sides continue preparing for trial next month.
Amato is scheduled to face a jury on Jan. 19 for charges of murder and having weapons under disability in the July 1, 2007, shooting death of his wife at their home at 1200 Commerce St., Wellsville. He claimed he shot her in self-defense after she fired a gun at him.
He's also set to face trial Feb. 9 for another count of having weapons under disability and a single count of possession of a dangerous ordnance for allegedly having guns and explosives in the room where he was staying at his father's Irondale residence while out of jail on a bond.
He was first charged in February 2008 for the murder but had been released from jail on a $100,000 cash or surety bond with a requirement that he stay at his father's residence under house arrest while awaiting trial. He ended up in jail in September 2008 after investigators looking for weapons related to the murder found the guns and explosives in his room.
He has remained in jail since then under the bond for those weapon charges. A status hearing for both cases remains set for 3 p.m. Jan. 8.
In the latest motion filed Dec. 16, defense attorney Charles Amato asked Judge C. Ashley Pike of Columbiana County Common Pleas Court for permission to have a photographer use a high resolution camera to photograph the bullet in question in the case. The motion also requested permission for C. Rodney James to "weigh the alleged bullet, examine the remaining five cartridges and spent shell recovered from the alleged murder weapon."
Lynn Grimshaw, the special prosecutor assigned to handle the case, from Wheelersburg, responded to the motion Monday, saying he had no objection to someone photographing, weighing or visually looking at any evidence, but he did object to anyone performing what he called scientific tests on any of the evidence until he was convinced the person was qualified.
Grimshaw said if that's the case, he wants a more specific motion from the defense, along with the qualifications for James to conduct the tests.
He previously balked at James' qualifications earlier this month when the defense asked for him to be permitted to take samples of alleged red particles from the tip of a certain projectile and for access to a cardboard box for lead residue testing. The judge allowed the sampling and the lead residue testing.
At the forefront of the investigation and evidence has been a bullet recovered in a box of Sweet'N Low on a shelf in the kitchen at the Amato residence in Wellsville where the shooting occurred, which according to previous documents was a bullet containing the alleged DNA of the victim.
Last week, 37 subpoenas were issued for service on witnesses in preparation for the trial which has been delayed a number of times since the indictment was first issued.
If convicted, J.C. Amato could face 15 years to life in prison for the murder charge.