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Jury seated, opening arguments heard in assault trial of accused murderer

The trial began Monday for an accused killer on sexual assault charges that led to his arrest.

Erik Mize, 33, of Warner Robins, is accused of sexually assaulting one woman and stabbing to death another woman in Warner Robins in 2006.

Although the crimes are unrelated, Mize was connected to the slaying during the sexual assault investigation, police said.

A Houston County jury was seated Monday in the sexual assault trial and heard opening arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys, Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke said.

Jurors also heard from two prosecution witnesses, with testimony expected to resume today.

Mize was charged with rape Aug. 14, 2006, in the sexual assault of a woman in her home in the Corder Road area 13 days after the stabbing death of Felicia L. Hardman, a 29-year-old mother of two. Hardman was killed inside her Vernon Drive home off S. Pleasant Hill Road on Aug. 1, police said.

The rape victim identified Mize, who was arrested at his home at 436 Woodland Drive a few hours after the assault. Through the sexual assault investigation, police learned that Mize also knew Hardman.

The sexual assault trial is expected to continue through Wednesday. Mize was indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault and aggravated battery.

A date for his capital murder trial has not yet been set. Mize was indicted on charges of murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime.

William M. Peterson, a Warner Robins lawyer representing Mize, could not be reached immediately for comment.

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