EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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May 19, 2013

Calif. killer still awaits local trial

ANDOVER — Two years after he was extradited from a maximum-security California prison, where he is serving double life sentences, Valentine Underwood remains in solitary confinement at Middleton Jail, awaiting trial for the aggravated rape and kidnapping of a woman on River Road in Andover exactly 25 years ago tomorrow.

Officials consider Underwood so dangerous, the movement of inmates is restricted in the rest of the jail whenever the convicted murderer comes out of his cell. Several correctional officers are assigned just to Underwood when he comes out for an hour each to day to exercise, walk around in the jail yard or go to the library, Sheriff Frank Cousins said.

“He is not your typical inmate ... you cannot let him out with other people” Cousins said. “He’s just a big guy and he’s killed a couple of people.”

Since he was brought to Essex County in May 2011 to face the Andover charges, Underwood, a 6-foot, 9-inch former Marine and military basketball star, has blown through several court-appointed defense attorneys. He now wants to represent himself, at least as co-counsel, this week filing a motion to dismiss the indictments handed down against him by an Essex County Grand Jury.

Underwood claims grand jurors were told he was previously convicted of rape — which he said he was not. Also, the aggravated rape law he is charged under did not exist in 1988 when the alleged offense occurred. Therefore, that indictment must also be dismissed, he wrote.

Joseph Collins, Underwood’s latest defense attorney, filed the motion Wednesday in Salem Superior Court, telling Judge Lu that Underwood, who was not in court that day, wants to be “co-counsel” in his case. Lu said he was “unlikely” to agree to that.

“If he wants to represent himself, he can do that,” said Lu, before setting a hearing date on the motion to dismiss for late next month.

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