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New trial date set for Allains

The couple accused of starving their 10-year-old foster daughter fled to New Jersey before their last trial date.


BROOKSVILLE - The Allains were in court on Thursday morning. Lori Allain, 49, and Arthur "Tommy" Allain, 47, are the Hernando County couple accused of starving their 10-year-old foster daughter down to 29 pounds. They were arrested in June 2004, skipped the start of their trial in October 2005 and got caught last month, after some 10 weeks on the lam, in a room in a Quality Inn in Toms River, N.J.

They will be back in court next month - that time, though, for trial.

Circuit Judge Jack Springstead did three things Thursday, and all of them fell in line with his well-established distaste for docket dillydallying:

1. He denied the motion that had been filed by Elliott Ambrose - Tommy Allain's court-appointed attorney - to be removed from the case.

2. He set Tommy Allain's trial on the charges of child abuse and neglect - Lori Allain will be tried at the same time - for the soonest available date. The much-anticipated Allains trial is now scheduled to start at 9 a.m. March 15.

3. He also set for March 13 Tommy Allain's trial on the charge of failing to appear in October, and set a pretrial conference for Lori Allain's charge of failing to appear for March 15.

"That went rough," Ambrose said to some bailiffs outside the courtroom. But then he also said this to the Times: "I intend to represent him to the best of my abilities. That's really about it."

"We were prepared in October," said Robert Christensen, Lori Allain's court-appointed attorney. "It doesn't change a whole lot."

"To me, the sooner the better," said Kristen Staab, 23, one of the Allains' two grown daughters who live on their own in Spring Hill. "At least with the trial it will all be over."

"And God willing," said Jason Barrett, her boyfriend, "it goes the way it should."

On Thursday, Assistant State Attorney Sherry Byerly, the prosecutor on the case, called Tommy Allain at 9:29.

Ambrose made his motion. Byerly opposed it.

"There are several things that have happened in this case ... ," Ambrose told Springstead.

Both Allains have said in phone calls with Ambrose and also with the Times when they were on the lam that they don't trust Ambrose and that they think he's in a "conspiracy" with the State Attorney's Office and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and the state Department of Children and Families.

Ambrose told the Times in the first week of January that he's put in "over 100 hours" on the case. Tommy Allain told the Times later that week that it "takes longer than that to get a beautician's license."

"He has asked for me to withdraw," Ambrose said Thursday in court.

Springstead didn't want to hear it.

"Certainly," said the no-nonsense judge, "he can't pick and choose" his court-appointed attorney. Springstead denied the motion five minutes after Tommy Allain had come into the courtroom. Then he set the trial date.

Lori Allain was called not quite an hour and a half later. She's usually the more talkative of the two, but she said nothing on Thursday, and her appearance in court went even more quickly than her husband's had.

Staab and Barrett were seated in the fourth row of the courtroom. Lori Allain smiled and waved at them on her way in and then again on her way out.

-- Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

2006 Feb 9