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Associated Press

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. (AP) - A judge denied a motion to move the trial for James Robert Duke, who is charged with murdering his wife and young son and plotting to murder his parents.

"A change of venue ruling from the court would be premature," 3rd District Judge Jere Ryckman said Thursday.

The fact that publicity has surrounded the case is not enough, that it must be shown that Duke would be prejudiced by the publicity and could not receive a fair trial in his hometown, Ryckman said.

Duke, 28, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Liana Mae Duke, 22, and son, Eric Robert Duke, 5, and two counts of soliciting their murders.

The two died after falling 180 feet from a cliff at Flaming Gorge Reservoir on Aug. 10, 1996. Duke told investigators he was getting a soda from his car when the two fell.

He is also charged with two counts of solicitation of first-degree murder for a plot to murder his parents, James and Roberta Duke, of Green River.

Duke is serving a 10-year federal sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to use a telephone for the plot.

He could face life in prison if convicted of any of the four solicitation charges. He could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of any of the two murder counts, but prosecutors have not announced whether they will pursue the death penalty.

According to court documents, Duke offered Roger Brauburger, of Green River, $20,000 in January 1999 to kill Duke's parents.

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Documents allege that Duke asked Brauburger about eight to 10 weeks before Liana and Eric Duke died if Brauburger would kill them for $23,000.

Duke was unhappy with his marriage and looking for a way out, Brauburger said.

Brauburger said he did not believe Duke was serious about the 1996 offer but decided to contact authorities when Duke called him three years later with the offer to kill the parents.

Duke's brother, Patrick Duke, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to failing to report the plot against their parents.

James Duke faces trial Aug. 12 or Aug. 19.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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