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Trial begins in death of former firefighter

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Trial is underway for a man accused of stabbing his wife’s ex-husband to death amid a custody disagreement.

Terry Lee White

Terry Lee White is charged with killing Don Fluitt, a former Bernalillo County firefighter who was found dead in the garage of his Northwest Albuquerque home on Dec. 29, 2016. Fluitt and his ex-wife, Christine White, have a daughter together; she was 11 at the time of her father’s death.

The crime went unsolved for months, but prosecutor Natalie Strub said in her opening statement Tuesday that White’s DNA was found under Fluitt’s fingernails.

Strub said that White sneaked into Fluitt’s garage as he returned home after dropping his daughter off with her mother.

In recent years, Fluitt had been working for a company that provides support and care to individuals with developmental disabilities. His daughter called his co-workers when she was unable to reach him, and they found his body when they went to his house to check on him.

White later told a fellow jail inmate that he and his wife worried their custody arrangement was going to change, police said, and he described stabbing 54-year-old Fluitt with a steak knife.

But White’s defense attorney, Sarah Plazola, told jurors in her opening statement that the inmate was “avoiding prison time by coming in here and telling you this story.”

She encouraged jurors to pay close attention to the evidence and to hold the state to its burden of proof. And she said that they would hear testimony from a witness who had concerns about the DNA analysis in the case.

Christine White once faced conspiracy charges in connection with Fluitt’s death. According to a criminal complaint filed in her case, her husband also told the inmate that she told him to “do this for your family.” Her case has since been dismissed “pending further investigation” by prosecutors and police.

The trial is expected to continue through Friday.