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Jury selection begins for man accused of killing estranged girlfriend

Jeffrey Allen Silvernail

BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. - Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the trial of a Wahpeton, N.D., man facing murder charges here in the shooting death of his estranged girlfriend nearly two years ago.

Thirteen days have been set aside in Wilkin County District Court for the trial of 45-year-old Jeffrey Allen Silvernail. He was indicted by a grand jury with one count of first-degree premeditated murder - a charge that carries life in prison without parole - and one count of second-degree intentional murder.

Jury selection is expected to take at least two days, Court Administrator Diane Fox said. Thirty potential jurors will be interviewed today and another 30 on Thursday, with an additional 10 on call if needed, she said.

Silvernail was arrested in May 2010 after a lengthy police investigation during which family members of victim Lori Roberts, 49, said they believed Silvernail was responsible for her death.

According to the incident report:

Silvernail called 911 and reported Roberts' death at 8:44 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2009. He told investigators he had left her apartment about 3 or 3:30 a.m. and returned to pack some belongings when he found her dead.

Authorities arrived and found Roberts nude from the waist down on the floor of her bedroom with a gunshot wound to her neck and chest.

The autopsy report showed the wounds came from a 9 mm handgun. Silvernail told authorities he owned four firearms, and investigators found all but a 9 mm gun, which Silvernail said must have been stolen.

The arrest came after authorities received results of forensic testing, including analysis of a blood spot on Silvernail's pants that matched Roberts' DNA profile, the report shows.