MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Nearly 20 years after he was to have married Lynne Friend, a bright vibrant hospital administrative assistant, Ed O’Dell wept repeatedly Tuesday as he testified in the murder trial of her ex-husband, Clifford Friend.
“I am so sorry,” O’Dell said at one point, apologizing for his display of emotion.
Prosecutors say Clifford Friend was enraged that his wife was about to marry O’Dell and move with him to Tennessee, taking their 5-year-old son, Christian, with them. Lynne Friend had just won a bitterly contested custody fight for Christian.
“We were in love,” said O’Dell. “We talked constantly on the telephone.”
They maintained a long distance relationship between his home in Tennessee and her home in Hallandale.
On the evening of August 28, 1994, O’Dell testified that he was talking on the phone with Lynne when she received a call waiting tone. O’Dell said it was her ex-husband, telling her to come to his house to pick up a child support check.
“I told her to go, and when she got back to call me,” said O’Dell.
“Did she call you?” asked Assistant State Attorney Maria Mato.
“No,” O’Dell replied, a tear falling from his face.
Prosecutors said Clifford Friend strangled his wife, and then asked his friend, Allan Gold, to ditch her car at a vacant lot. The two took her weighted down body out in the ocean and dumped it.
Customs agents witnessed the pair dropping an object into the water and chased after them, letting them go after finding no contraband on the boat.
Prosecutors won a murder indictment against Friend in 2012 based on the circumstantial evidence surrounding his ex-wife’s disappearance.
In 2013, Gold agreed to testify to his role in helping to dispose of the alleged victim’s body, in return for not being prosecuted.
Lynne Friend’s body was never recovered.
The defense said that, and no other physical evidence against her ex-husband leaves the State’s case “reeking with reasonable doubt.”
Lynne’s fiancé traveled to South Florida in August, 1994, and joined in a massive search for the body, that included the Coast Guard and even the U.S. Navy. O’Dell paid $13,000 of his own money to keep the search by the Navy going for an additional day.
In a 1994 interview with CBS4 News, Odelle said he was convinced then that his fiancé was dead and that it was important that her body be found.
He was doing it, he said at the time, so that she can have a decent burial.
“So that her son Christian will know where she is,” said O’Dell.
Ironically, Christian, now 25, was in the courtroom Tuesday in support of his father, his mother’s accused killer.
Friend, 56, is being tried before Judge Teresa Pooler, who has no choice but to sentence him to life without parole if he is convicted of murder.