Man to go on trial in wife's cliffside death

He had taken out $1.5 million in life insurance

Posted: Tuesday, May 02, 2006

HOMER - A man who prosecutors said pushed his wife off a scenic sea cliff nine years ago will face first-degree murder charges on Monday.

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Jay Darling, 42, reported his wife of four months, Wanda Wood Darling, 23, had died after falling 800 feet from a bluff west of Homer while taking photos in 1997.

Six years later, Darling went to federal prison on a fraud charge related to $1.5 million in life insurance policies taken out between his wedding and his wife's death.

The federal charges alleged that one way Darling committed fraud was to falsely declare that his wife's death was an accident.

Last year, as Darling was due to be released, a state grand jury in Kenai handed up the first-degree murder charge.

At the time charges were filed last April, no major new evidence had turned up in the 8-year-old case, said Kenai assistant district attorney June Stein, who brought the case to the grand jury. It was more a matter of sifting through old evidence, she said.

Wanda Wood met Darling at the Mississippi hospital where she worked as a nurse, according to her family. Her sister and mother said she was afraid of heights.

Soon after the Darlings married in April 1997, they began taking out life insurance, according to investigators.

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