Witness Admits Affair With Investigator April 6, 2004
Section: Local State
LAMBRIX MURDER CASE
News-Press Fort Myers
Witness admits affair with investigator
BY MIKE HOYEM firstname.lastname@example.org
A key witness against convicted killer Cary Michael Lambrix testified Monday she had an affair with a lead investigator in the case while Lambrix was being prosecuted.
Frances Ottinger, 51, who was Lambrix's girlfriend at the time of the 1983 murders of Alisha Bryant and Lawrence Lamberson, was at one time a suspect in the killings herself.
She was arrested after being caught driving Lamberson's car and could have been jailed for aiding and abetting Lambrix, who was an escaped prisoner at the time.
Ottinger, who was known as Frances Smith in 1983, wasn't prosecuted and testified against Lambrix during his 1984 trial.
Lambrix, 43, has been on death row since 1984 and is trying to get a new trial because of what his lawyers call new evidence in the case.
During a hearing Monday in which Lambrix also testified - claiming he killed Lamberson in self-defense after Lamberson killed Bryant - Ottinger admitted having an affair with Robert Daniels, a former investigator for the state attorney's office.
"For a very short time," Ottinger said.
"And it was sexual in nature?" Lambrix's public defender, Silvia Gonzalez, asked.
"Yes," Ottinger said.
Attorney Dan Hallenberg, who also represents Lambrix, called it "pretty significant."
"Mr. Daniels was involved with taking some of her sworn statements," Hallenberg said. "This is something that was never disclosed to the defense. Everything now, in my opinion, is placed in a whole new light in terms of her credibility."
Assistant State Attorney Mark Ahlbrand disagreed, calling the testimony "a negligible comment on the limited issues before the court."
Daniels couldn't be reached for comment.
Lambrix was sentenced to death in March 1984 for luring Bryant, 19, of LaBelle, and Lamberson, 35, of Key Largo to his Glades County trailer on Feb. 5, 1983, and killing them.
Ottinger testified she was making a spaghetti dinner for the four of them when Lambrix asked the pair to go outside.
She said Lambrix later walked back in covered with blood and told her he'd killed the two. She said he made her help bury the bodies and threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
Ottinger was caught driving Lamberson's car a few days after the murders. After being freed from jail, she talked with an attorney and decided to tell police about the slayings.
Lambrix's lawyers are asking Lee Circuit Judge R. Thomas Corbin to grant a new trial based largely on the testimony of witness Debra Hanzel, 51.
Hanzel testified Feb. 9 that she lied to jurors during Lambrix's trial because she was scared Lambrix might kill her if he remained free.
She also said Ottinger called her, asking her to lie because she also feared what Lambrix would do if he wasn't imprisoned.
Ottinger testified there were some things she can't remember after 21 years. But she repeatedly denied asking Hanzel to lie.
Clad in a red jail outfit with his hands cuffed and his legs in irons, Lambrix testified he heard a scream from behind his trailer that night, picked up a tire iron, went to investigate and found Lamberson - who was also known as Clarence Edward Moore - attacking Bryant.
"Lamberson had gone nuts," Lambrix said. "When I attempted to intervene, he had come at me and I had to swing at him."
Lambrix claimed he tried to give Bryant cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but she was dead.
"It's very interesting that he's saying, `I didn't lay out self-defense in my trial but I'm going to do it now, 21 years after the trial,' " Ahlbrand said.
"He told his attorneys he wanted to testify," Hallenberg said. "His attorneys ended up basically not allowing him to testify."