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Murder suspect Zimmerman to boost fundraising

ORLANDO, Fla. — Murder suspect George Zimmerman on Wednesday announced plans to ramp up fundraising, writing on a website that if you act now, he’ll send you a thank you card “personally signed by George.”

The fund so far has raised an estimated $340,000, but Zimmerman announced Wednesday it’s nearly exhausted.

Zimmerman is the 29-year-old former Neighborhood Watch volunteer free on $1 million bail while he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge.

He killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, in Sanford, Fla., Feb. 26 after he spotted the teenager, described him to police as suspicious then got into a fight with the high school junior and shot him once in the chest.

He says he acted in self-defense.

Zimmerman began raising funds via the Internet a few weeks after the shooting and for a time was netting $1,000 a day, but fundraising has since fallen off sharply.

Several weeks ago, defense attorney Mark O’Mara said defense costs were outstripping income and he might be forced to have Zimmerman declared indigent.

Zimmerman is living in hiding in Seminole County and does not have a job.

Wednesday, a new post appeared on the legal defense fund’s website. It says the fund needs more money, so in December, it’s being transferred to a new fund manager - one Zimmerman will choose - and he’ll make “more affirmative fundraising efforts.”

He promised a new statement to supporters plus thank you notes to contributors. A photo on the webpage shows an understated note card with the words “George Zimmerman” on the front, and inside, “Thank you for your support.”

It is signed, “Your Friend, George.”

“We are, of course, maintaining the confidentiality of donors,” the website says.

The money will go to pay Zimmerman’s living expenses first, then for costs associated with the case and lastly to defense lawyers O’Mara and co-counsel Don West, who have not been paid, the site says.

The announcement reflects a shift in control of the fund. O’Mara ordered Zimmerman to surrender all defense funds to him in April then placed them in the hands of an independent manager. They now will be managed by someone picked by Zimmerman, according to the statement.

Exact fundraising totals are hard to come by, but it appears donors have contributed about $340,000.

According to a letter O’Mara wrote to Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. on May 18, Zimmerman had netted just under $200,000 when O’Mara had Zimmerman surrender control on April 27.

Wednesday’s announcement says that since May 3, it has raised an additional $140,000.

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