Tavar's family: Painfully slow process could get longer

Joseph Roberts seeking new lawyer in 2010 killing of 45-year-old woman

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Her disappearance from her St. Johns County neighborhood sparked a nationwide manhunt in 2010. Now the man who investigators said confessed to killing 45-year-old Brittany Tavar wants a new lawyer -- again.

If Joseph Roberts' request is granted, this would be the fifth new attorney to take over his case.

According to a letter written by Roberts from jail, he says his current attorney has failed to competently represent him.

For family and friends of Tavar (pictured below), who say the legal process is already painfully slow, it could all mean yet another delay in bringing the man accused of ending her life to justice.

Brittany Tavar

"Closure would be nice for a lot of people, but I still keep in touch with their family," said Derryl Brown, Tavar's former boyfriend. "We don't understand what's going on. It's been three years."

Brown said he didn't expect the wheels of justice to turn this slow in the case of a woman whom he had grown fond of over time. Brown said his relationship was building with Tavar in 2010 when investigators said Roberts hit her over the head with a hammer and cut her throat.

Deputies said Roberts confessed to detectives about the killing after being tracked down in Seattle.

"I never did met this guy," Brown said. "We had plans to meet this person. I don't know if I could have done anything, maybe just sense something."

Roberts wrote a letter to the state of Florida requesting new representation, saying his lawyer, Michael Nielsen "failed to provide competent representation and failed to act promptly or diligently as defined by Florida law."

Roberts' lawyer said he's aware of his client's request, but he refused to comment any further.

"The issue right now is that Roberts or his attorneys are trying to have his statements or confession thrown out," said Patricia Bellamah, Tavar's sister.

Bellamah said Roberts' confession to detectives is critical to the case. She said yet another lawyer assigned to the case would only delay Roberts' day in court even more.

The motion to throw out the confession was filed last October by a lawyer long gone from the case. It still hasn't been fully argued. There is still no trial date set.

"The bottom line is, without his confession, they wouldn't have found the body, and without the body, I'm not sure," Bellamah said. "It's much more difficult to prove a homocide without a body."

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Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.