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Witnesses say woman accused of killing newborn is good mom

BAY MINETTE (AP) — A Mobile woman accused of killing her newborn baby has been described by friends and family as a loving mother who works in her church's food ministry and should be released to take care of her six children.

But prosecutors say Marsha Gossett Colby, who has spent two years in prison waiting to be tried for capital murder, should not be released.

They contend she drowned her newborn son in February 2005 and buried him in a shallow, muddy grave outside the Orange Beach trailer where she lives.

In asking Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge James H. Reid to set a bail amount, defense attorney John W. Beck brought in character witnesses to speak before the judge on Colby's behalf.

"If he was ever to give a bond in a capital murder case, I think it should be Marsha's," Beck said Monday.

"None of the delays (in the case) have been her fault, and she should not have to pay with her freedom until we are able to get the case to trial," he said.

Joyanna McElfresh, who worked with Colby in the food ministry at St. Jude's By The Sea Lutheran Church, called her a "wonderful mother" of six children.

"She's been a faithful worker for us," said McElfresh, who testified at Thursday's hearing. "I don't think anything would stop her from being with her children if she could."

Colby was charged with capital murder a week after investigators found the infant's body.

Colby's lawyers have said that the infant, whom Colby named Timothy, was born dead.

She has been held in jail without bail for 26 months and has had four lawyers. At least three different prosecutors have been assigned to Colby's case, which has been set for trial on eight different dates. The current assistant district attorney assigned to the case, Hallie Dixon, said she looked at the court file for the first time last week.

Reid said he will rule in two weeks, after the state has had a chance to respond. A May 17 hearing could settle several pending motions.

Colby personally addressed the judge Thursday and pleaded for him to set a bail amount so she could see her children.

"Please give me a chance, judge, to show that I am a stable person," Colby said. "I won't let you down. I promise."

Dixon said the state will "strenuously, strenuously object" to the setting of bail.

She said staff changes have slowed the case and prosecutors "just don't believe she should get a benefit for the delay."

Last year, prosecutors offered Colby a deal and said they would reduce the capital murder charge to manslaughter. But Colby maintained her innocence and rejected the offer, which would have sent her to prison for 20 years.

Beck and Dixon agreed that Colby would likely go before a jury in August.

Colby's mother, Barbara Gossett, told the judge she had moved from Louisiana to Loxley so she could take care of her daughter's children.

"I don't think she would break the law," Gossett said. "She's been a loving mother, and I know she wants to be back home with her children."

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Information from: Press-Register, http://www.al.com/mobileregister

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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