BELMONT, N.C. -- Reviewing his notes Sunday night, attorney David Phillips was prepared to go to trial Monday.
That is until his client,Neal Cassada Jr., died Sunday morning of what seemed to be a heart attack.
He had some health problems, two heart attacks in the past. People deal with stress in different ways, said Phillips.
Cassada and his cousin Mark Carver were charged with first-degree murder and felony conspiracy in the death of 20-year-old Irina Yarmolenko.
Carver's trial is set for early next year.
Yarmolenko was a student at UNC Charlotte. Her body and car were found near the Catawba River in Mount Holly in May 2008.
She was taking nature photos for a class assignment when she was killed.
In the months after her death, her brother, along with friends and community members, held vigils and organized multiple searches for her killer.
Overall, it's the thought that's running constantly at the back of my mind. It will go on until this guy is caught, said her brother, Pavel, in 2008.
Phillips says there was no DNA evidence from Cassada on Yarmolenko's body, and that he passed a polygraph test and he had no criminal background.
We were hoping to clear his name. It's closure for his family because the state has charged an innocent man. He is 100 percent not guilty, said Phillips.