Murder charges dismissed after mistrial declared in case against accused wife killer

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A judge Tuesday dismissed charges against a man accused of murdering his wife in their Mission Valley apartment 16 years ago and dumping her body in a remote area of the Cleveland National Forest.

A mistrial was declared Monday in the case against Russell Upton when jurors told Judge Kerry Wells they were deadlocked 8-4 for guilt and could not reach a unanimous verdict.

Wells granted a defense motion today to dismiss the case against Upton, a court clerk said.

Upton said he last saw his wife, Marilane Abueg, the night of Aug. 17, 1995, when she failed to return home from a walk after they argued over money. Abueg's body was found a week later off Kitchen Creek Road in Pine Valley.

Prosecutor Mark Pettine alleged Upton strangled or smothered his wife, but Deputy Public Defender Kevin Haughton said his client was innocent, telling the jury the victim walked out on the defendant and never came back, just like he told investigators.

Haughton said medical examiners could not determine a cause of death and there was no evidence the 21-year-old woman was choked or strangled.

Upton, 37, volunteered information to detectives, such as the fact that his relationship with his wife was volatile and that he had hit her in the past, Haughton told the jury.

Haughton said detectives failed to interview family members, co-workers or neighbors who may have seen or heard something the day Abueg disappeared.

In his opening statement, Pettine said Upton was controlling and manipulative and that he had physically assaulted his spouse more than once.

Upton, who was 20 when his wife disappeared, was arrested in March 2010 after being re-interviewed by investigators.

Categories: KUSI