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Fred Mueller, Texas man, may face third murder trial in death of wife near Colo. cliff

Leslie Mueller

Leslie Mueller
Leslie Mueller
48 Hours
(CBS) Fred Mueller has been tried twice for the murder of his wife. Both times a Colorado jury failed to reach a verdict, most recently last Friday, as reported on"48 Hours": Death at Cottonwood Creek

It's possible the Texas man will be tried a third time.

On Tuesday, Broomfield, Colo. Judge Francis Wasserman set a date, January 6, for the next trial. Under Colorado law, Mueller would have to be tried within 90 days if the prosecution goes decides to go forward.

Mueller, 52, of San Angelo, Texas, was out hiking with his wife, Leslie, in May of 2008 near Lake City, Colo. He said she fell off a cliff of nearly 20 feet into a rushing creek, and was swept away to her death. She was found by a rescuer, drowned - her body lodged under a fallen tree across the creek, 50 yards from where Mueller said she fell in the water onto a boulder.

Police were suspicious of Mueller's story almost immediately. Despite the fall onto solid rock, as Mueller described, Leslie had no injuries; his own broken glasses were found a few yards from where she fell; and Mueller had scratches on his face. Four years after her death, Colorado authorities arrested Fred Mueller and charged him with murder.

At his first trial in Gunnison, Colo. in January of this year, the jury was unable to render a verdict, voting 11-1 for acquittal after more than three days of deliberation. Mueller was re-tried at the beginning of October, in a new venue, the Denver suburb of Broomfield. Again this time, the jury was hung. This time they deliberated a day-and-a-half before telling Judge Wasserman they were hopelessly deadlocked. This time the jury vote was 8-4, in favor of guilt. In the second trial, Mueller was represented by Pamela Mackey, best known for defending basketball star Kobe Bryant in his 2003 trial for sexual assault.

Although prosecutors asked for a new trial date and one has been set, prosecutors have not yet decided whether to move forward with a third trial. The defense has asked Judge Wasserman for an acquittal in the case on grounds of double jeopardy. Briefs from both sides will be submitted by October 29, and the judge said he will render a ruling on the issue within a week of that date.

This story was contributed by Alec Sirken, a producer for CBS News' "48 Hours".

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