It’s been a cold morning in the third floor courtroom at the Apalachicola courthouse for the start of the Aileen Seiden murder trial, but that’s not because of the crime being alleged.
Most of the 48 jurors who showed up for the first wave of jury selection wore their coats as they awaited questioning from Circuit Judge Frank Allman and the lawyers handling the case.
In addition, Clerk of Courts Michele Maxwell and her staff brought in space heaters to place around the courtroom’s public benches to help raise the temperature.
Maxwell said 600 jurors have been summoned , in four waves of 150 each, for possible selection on the 12-person jury that will decide the fate of Zachary R. Abell, 36, of North Miami Beach.
Abell is charged with first-degree murder, accessory after the fact of a capital felony and tampering with physical evidence for allegedly taking part in beating to death Aileen Seiden, 31, at an Eastpoint motel on April 23, 2018, in a room that the two shared with a third traveling companion, Christina Marie Araujo, 44, of Palm Beach.
Abell and Araujo are accused of dumping Seiden’s body in a cul-de-sac at a vacant subdivision off U.S. 98, before hurrying back to Miami where they were later apprehended.,
Araujo was initially set to be tried at the same time as a co-defendant. But she chose in May 2023 to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder, and is expected to appear as a witness in the upcoming trial.
Dressed in a three-piece suit with his hair closely cropped, Abell sat alongside his Tallahassee attorney, Alex Morris as Circuit Judge Frank Allman began what is likely to be a two-day process of choosing a jury.
Representing the prosecution is Assistant State Attorney Jarred Patterson, who will be handling the trial with help from Eddie Evans, an assistant state attorney who works out of Tallahassee.