A preliminary hearing for a man accused of murdering two women will not be closed and the press will not be prohibited from reporting on it, a 3rd Circuit judge has ruled.

After a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Judge Eleanor Van Sciver said defense attorney Brooke Wells had failed to show that published accounts of the upcoming Jan. 18 hearing for Steven R. Stout would damage the defendant's rights to a fair trial.Stout is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, which carries a possible death sentence, in the deaths of his mother-in-law, Bonnie Craft, 41, and her daughter, Maureen Turner, 19, who were beaten and stabbed Jan. 22, 1988.

Wells unsuccessfully tried to convince Van Sciver that already published reports have threatened Stout's fair trial rights and that further publicity would continue to limit the pool of untainted potential jurors.

Media attorney Randy Dryer argued that the trial court has numerous means of ensuring a fair and impartial trial and noted that more sensational cases than Stout's have been fairly tried.

Stout was arrested in Mississippi Dec. 7, nine days after being placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list. His girlfriend turned him in to authorities after seeing the TV program "America's Most Wanted" on the Fox Broadcasting network.