FLORENCE — The trial of a San Tan Valley man accused in the deaths of a Pinal County couple was put on hold for a day due to a juror being absent.

In May 2016, Keith Long and Renae Gardner were shot and killed while sleeping in their trailer home in an Apache Junction trailer park. Long’s body was found in a canal near San Tan Valley. Gardner’s body was found along the Beeline Highway/State Route 87 between Phoenix and Payson.

Demian Blu, 44, is one of three men who were arrested in connection with Long and Gardner’s deaths. Clint Wendelschafer, 34, of Tempe and Nicholas Douglas, 45, of San Tan Valley were also accused of murdering the couple. Wendelschafer accepted a plea agreement in December 2019 and Douglas is awaiting trial.

Blu is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abandonment or concealment of a dead body. His trial started last week.

The court was notified Tuesday morning that a juror sent a note stating that she was unable to attend the trial that morning because she had to euthanize a pet. Judge Robert Carter Olson decided to delay the trial by a day instead of replacing the missing juror with one of the six alternate jurors after one of the attorneys raised concerns that other jurors may want to leave the case for similar reasons.

The courts have been having problems finding enough jurors due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trial will continue at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Out of hearing of the jury, Olson and the attorneys from both sides discussed whether prosecutors would have to specifically tell the jury that the Pinal County Attorney’s Office did not believe the gun that Blu was seen with after the deaths of Long and Gardner may not be the murder weapon.

Defense attorneys pointed out that the gun used in the case was never found and the gun that Blu was seen with was a different make, model and caliber from what is believed to be the murder weapon.

Prosecutors stated that they did not think the gun Blu was found with was the murder weapon but they could not be absolutely sure since the murder weapon was never found.

Olson stated that he would not require prosecutors to specifically state at this time that they did not believe the gun Blu was seen with was the murder weapon. However, he would include instructions to the jury at the end of the trial that prosecutors did not believe that Blu’s gun was the murder weapon.

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Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa is a reporter covering the city of Casa Grande and the surrounding area, as well as Central Arizona College. She can be reached at sadams@pinalcentral.com.