Jury selection begins in Hanford murder trial

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Todd Pate is accused of stabbing his wife Melanie to death in fall of 2013. Court documents reveal Melanie Pate had filed for divorce five days before she died. (KFSN)

Jury selection began today for the trial of a Hanford man charged with killing his wife.

The case dates back to the fall of 2013, when prosecutors say Todd Pate stabbed Melanie Pate to death at their Hanford home, just days after she served him with divorce papers.

Instead of a jail jumpsuit, 53-year-old Todd Pate wore a black dress suit inside department five of the Kings County Courthouse on Monday.

Cameras were not allowed inside as jury selection began for Pate's trial.

Once jurors are selected, opening statements could happen as soon as Wednesday, nearly three years after Melanie was killed.

"Gotta make sure both parties have all the evidence, sometimes there's motions and so forth, but we're here now, we're ready to proceed," said Kings County Deputy District Attorney Phil Esbenshade.

Previously prosecutors have alleged that Todd Pate stabbed Melanie in the throat with multiple knives.

She was found in their backyard pool.

In the days following her death, Todd plead not guilty, and friends and family of Melanie remembered her as a bright, dependable, and loving mother.

Court documents reveal Melanie Pate had filed for divorce from Todd five days before she died.

In the paperwork, she described Todd as manipulative and controlling towards their son, who was 12 at the time.

"And it was after he discovered that his wife was intending on completely keeping his son from him, his son he had participated in raising from the time he was first born, where my client just completely lost it and as a result we are now here before the trial," said Pate's attorney, Melina Benninghoff.

Benninghoff says her client has been severely overcharged and that at best, this is a case of voluntary manslaughter.

Since 2013, the charges against pate have changed slightly.

As his trial begins, Pate no longer faces torture charges.

He's charged with murder plus a special allegation of using knives and faces a maximum of 26 years to life in prison.

"This will be treated like any other case, it'll proceed to an impartial jury, and a trial and the people will put on their case," said Kings County Assistant District Attorney Nick Schuller.

The trail is expected to finish by August 19th.

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homicide investigationtrialkings countyHanford
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