updated 10/19/2007 6:29:42 PM ET 2007-10-19T22:29:42

Prosecutors began their case Friday against a man accused of causing an auto wreck in 2001 that killed three college students, then fleeing to Ireland when he was charged. Prosecutors plan to argue he was drunk at the time of the crash.

The opening statements began a day after a judge decided to allow evidence about Frederick Russell’s blood alcohol test results.

The jury of six men and six women was seated late Thursday after four days of jury selection. The trial was moved across the state to Kelso from Whitman County in southeast Washington because of extensive news coverage.

Russell, 28, is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault for the crash that killed three Washington State University students and injured three others.

Defense attorney Francisco Duarte said before the trial that the defense planned to challenge the competence of the crash investigation and the conclusion that Russell caused the wreck.

Prosecutors allege Russell was drunk and speeding. But the blood samples taken after the wreck were later destroyed by the state crime lab, and defense attorneys argued that it now couldn’t test them to verify the results.

Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier ruled he would allow into evidence the hospital records of Russell’s blood alcohol level.

After his arrest and release on bail in 2001, Russell fled to Ireland, where he was found in 2005 and later extradited to the United States. He had been on the U.S. Marshals Service’s “Most Wanted” list.

Killed in the crash were WSU seniors Brandon Clements, 22, of Wapato; Stacy Morrow, 21, of Milton; and Ryan Sorensen, 21, of Westport.

Russell faces 10 to 14 years in prison if convicted.

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