3rd Circuit OKs evidence of 2 women's disappearances in Felix Vail's trial on murder charge

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LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana — Prosecutors who accuse a Mississippi native of drowning his first wife in Calcasieu Parish may also bring evidence about the disappearances of two other women close to defendant Felix Vail, a state appeal court has ruled.

Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in the second-degree murder case accusing Vail of killing Mary Horton Vail in the Calcasieu River in October 1962. Vail, 75, and a native of Montpelier, Mississippi, claims she fell into the Calcasieu River while they were running trotlines.

The three-judge panel said prosecutors may bring evidence about Vail's girlfriend, Sharon Hensley, and his second wife, Annette Carver-Vail, even though there's no direct evidence that Vail "disposed of" them. Hensley has been missing for 41 years and Carver-Vail for 30. Vail says both left him to travel.

Vail's apparent lack of direct involvement "weighs in favor of admission because it minimizes impermissible negative inferences about his character," Judge John D. Saunders wrote in the opinion joined by Judges Billy Howard Ezell and Phyllis M. Keaty.

Prosecutors must prove that Vail committed other crimes that bear on Mary Vail's death, they said.

"While the evidence is prejudicial, this court concludes that there is little danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issue, or misleading of the jury," Saunders wrote.

Assistant District Attorney Hugo Holland told The Clarion-Ledger (http://bit.ly/1vO1E4H ) of Jackson, Mississippi, that he hopes the trial can take place by January or February of next year.

Wednesday's decision means the two missing women's families may testify about their disappearances.

Carver-Vail's mother, Mary Rose, welcomes that opportunity.

"It would publicly acknowledge his role in their disappearances," she told the newspaper. "It's one more way to show he did not get away with it."

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