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Ex-Colonel Faces Third Murder Trial

May 2, 1999

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ George Marecek’s eventful life has earned him several vivid appellations:

Child survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.

Green Beret colonel.

Decorated combat veteran in Korea and Vietnam.

Wife killer.

The 66-year-old Special Forces retiree has battled the last tag for five years, and the fight may not be finished.

He has been tried twice and convicted once for the 1991 murder of his second wife, Viparat Saewong Marecek. The first proceeding ended in mistrial in 1995 when one juror held out for acquittal; the second jury’s conviction was overturned by the state Court of Appeals in July 1998.

``I think you would be safe in assuming it will be retried, but I can’t say when,″ says prosecutor Dean Bowman. Until the state decides whether to pursue a third trial, Mracek must check in daily with a court officer.

``I don’t need this,″ Marecek said recently as he sat in his attorney’s office. ``This is going on the eighth year now, and I’m drenched. I’m exhausted.

``I don’t know if you can imagine the financial and physical stress, not only of losing my wife, but then being hammered with something.″

But prosecutors see him as anything but a victim. Even two of Marecek’s three children have testified against him.

``If they have another trial, I’ll have to testify again, and I’ll just tell the truth ... I have to,″ says Susan Kirk, 41, Marecek’s daughter. ``Viparat was part of my family. We were friends, and she trusted me. I couldn’t possibly not stand up for her when she can’t stand up for her herself.″

Tommy Hicks, who prosecuted both trials, said Marecek killed his wife so he could collect on a life insurance policy and marry his Czech cousin, Hana, whom he’d met the year before.

``We managed to convince 23 out of 24 jurors he was guilty,″ Hicks says.

Mrs. Kirk testified that her stepmother suspected Marecek was having an affair with Hana, whom he had visited at least twice, and grew concerned when he took out a new $150,000 life insurance policy on her in the spring of 1991.

Michael Marecek testified that he and his father got drunk one day and his father confessed to making ``a big mistake,″ which Michael took to mean he’d killed Viparat.

Marecek’s younger daughter, Eva Lynn, testified on his behalf. Despite their differences, all three siblings stay in touch. But Mrs. Kirk has not spoken with her father since the first day of his first trial.

``He couldn’t believe I would think such a thing,″ Mrs. Kirk says. ``But his story of events and the preceding events didn’t correspond with the things that I knew, the things that Viparet had told me.″

In June 1991, George and Viparat _ his wife of nine years, whom he’d met in Thailand in the mid-1970s _ were vacationing at a beach cottage near the Cape Fear River. Marecek told investigators he went to the beach about mid-afternoon on June 3. His wife planned to go out later to check some fishing spots. They agreed he would start the chicken for dinner if she wasn’t home when he got back.

He returned to the cottage about 5:30 but didn’t become alarmed at her absence until the rain started. About 8:30, he called police, who searched that night.

Marecek says he resumed the search the next day and found his 42-year-old wife face-down and nude in the river.

The medical examiner said she’d drowned but that she’d also been struck several times with a blunt object and the blows could have incapacitated her before she entered the river. Investigators never determined where she was beaten or what happened to her clothing.

``One of the things that struck me from the beginning was that when her body was found, there was nothing _ no clothes, no jewelry, no nothing,″ Hicks says. ``Somebody who had just committed a killing would not have taken that care to clean up the scene without planning it ahead of time.″

The case against Marecek was totally circumstantial. Deputies found no murder weapon, and there were no witnesses.

Two and a half years passed until Marecek was indicted, charged and put on trial. He served 18 months of a 30-year prison sentence before the appeals court overturned the conviction, ruling the judge had improperly allowed hearsay testimony, including that of Mrs. Kirk.

Marecek says he first tasted captivity as a 12-year-old boy. In 1944, after his father, an underground activist who helped rescue downed Allied pilots, went into hiding, the Nazis sent him and his mother to a concentration camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia.

Marecek is reluctant to discuss either prison experience. He is more comfortable talking about his military career. He stills wears his hair in a crew cut and lapses into military jargon to spell the name of his hometown, Dolni Poustevna _ ``.... Echo, Victor, November, Alpha.″

Combat awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest combat medal, for actions during a nightime enemy attack in Vietnam.

``I rallied the troops ... and I knocked out a few automatic weapons,″ he says matter-of-factly.

Marecek believes prosecutors used his combat training and 24 years with the Special Forces to depict him as a man capable of murder.

``I always felt that my military record has been used very effectively against me,″ Marecek says.

His attorney, Gerald Beaver, agrees: ``They tried to turn that against him, as if that makes him a cunning, ruthless killer.″

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