Cynthia Moreland, 48, went missing in August 2006. Her partially nude and decomposed body was discovered in rural Harnett County a few weeks later. Antonio Chance, a convicted sex offender, was charged with the crime.
The Wake County District Attorney's Office had said it would seek the death penalty. The trial was expected to start in February. But, Chance's attorney plans to file a defense motion this week declaring his client mentally retarded.
"We're giving notice that we have evidence that he is mentally retarded,"said Bryan Collins with the Wake County Public Defenders Office. "We are seeking to have the case declared non-capital by the court."
Collins told Eyewitness News the legal process for such a motion could be lengthy, possibly delaying the murder trial for several months.
"We need get all the information to see if that's a justified claim," said Assistant District Attorney Susan Spurlin.
Under a North Carolina statute and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mentally retarded defendants cannot be executed.
Moreland's tragic death sparked concern for parking safety in the downtown area. Raleigh City leaders beefed up patrols and approved security upgrades for downtown parking decks. In response to Moreland's murder, the Progress Energy garage assembled a more visible security team.