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Jury hears Bechler in recorded interview

Deepa Bharath

SANTA ANA -- The jurors listened Tuesday to a recording of accused

murderer Eric Bechler talking about having a happy marriage, after they

heard a stripper testify that he hired her for a lap dance about a year

before his wife, Pegye, disappeared at sea.

The prosecution played a two-hour tape of conversations between

Bechler and Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators Roger

Neumeister and Paul Fuzzard, recorded days after the incident.

Bechler, 33, of Newport Beach is accused of bludgeoning his wife,

weighting her body and dumping it into the ocean during a 1997 boating

trip. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and maintains that his

wife was knocked off the speedboat she was driving while towing him on a

bodyboard.

In the recording, Bechler said his wife was menstruating the day she

disappeared and that they had sex twice on the boat. In response to

questions, Bechler said he saw “some blood” and that his wife cleaned

herself with a pink towel. That pink towel was not found on the boat when

investigators checked it a day after the disappearance, according to

their testimony.

John Gage, a Newport Beach police crime scene investigator who checked

the Bechlers’ rented boat, said Tuesday that he found several small drops

of blood on a vinyl cushion and on the stern of the boat. There was no

evidence that proved the boat had been wiped off or cleaned, he said.

On the tape, Bechler said he and his wife had a “very strong and

wonderful marriage.”

“We never went to bed angry,” he said. “We always talked things out.”

When investigators asked if the couple got drunk on the boat, Bechler

replied: “We were just happy.”

Also, Traci Nunez, a former stripper, testified that Bechler hired her

in July 1996 to give him a lap dance. He took her to a hotel room and,

although they did not have sex, they fell asleep, Nunez said. She added

that she woke up to find that Bechler had left without paying her.

Another prosecution witness, Pegye Bechler’s cousin Kevin Marshall,

testified Tuesday that two 35-pound dumbbells were missing from a stand

in the garage of the Bechlers’ home about a day after she disappeared.

The dumbbells were mentioned indirectly in the testimony of Tina New,

Bechler’s former girlfriend, who told the courtroom last month that

Bechler said his wife wasn’t coming back because he had dumped her body

using 70 pounds of weights.

Marshall said he had previously seen the dumbbells with the weight

stand in Pegye Bechler’s storage area. But the day after her

disappearance, Marshall said he saw a similar stand in the garage,

without the 35-pounders.

The prosecution presented a photograph of the stand without the

dumbbells. Marshall said the photo was taken by Pegye’s mother, June

Marshall, after he mentioned to her that “it seemed very odd” that the

stand had moved and the weights were gone.


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