PARIS — A state prosecutor says police did not infringe on the rights of a man accused of two homicides when they interviewed him and searched his residence last August.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson filed the argument in Oxford County Superior Court in response to five motions to suppress evidence presented by defense attorney George Hess of Lewiston. Hess is representing Eric Hamel, 19, of Mexico Avenue in Mexico.
Hamel is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of 22-year-old Victor Reed Sheldon and 48-year-old Roger Leroy Day Jr. on Aug. 3, 2009. Both men were shot to death in the living room of Day’s residence on Pine Street in Rumford. Richard Moulton, 21, of Franklin Street in Rumford, has also been charged with two counts of murder for allegedly helping to plan the killings.
Hess contends that Hamel’s statements to police were involuntary and that he did not waive his Miranda rights or give consent for investigators to take a DNA sample from him. He also argues that a photo lineup given to a witness was unreliable and “impermissibly suggestive,” and that there was no probable cause for police to search Hamel’s residence, computer or MySpace records.
Benson included transcripts of Hamel’s interview with Maine State Police detectives, which ran from about 11:32 p.m. on Aug. 6 to 3:15 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2009, with his supporting documentation.
During the interview, Hamel said Moulton was upset with Sheldon because he was “making everyone’s life miserable.” He said Sheldon’s ex-wife, Gayla, then dating Moulton, was worried that the two children she had with Sheldon would be taken away if Sheldon went to jail. Sheldon was scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 4 on a charge of domestic assault against Gayla, but the District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case and the charge was dismissed on Aug. 3, before the two men were killed.
Hamel said he agreed to kill the two men for $2,000. He said he needed the money, and had not met Sheldon or Day before. When the investigators asked what he was thinking before the shootings, he responded, “Mostly, ‘What the hell am I doing?’”
Hamel said he stole a .38-caliber revolver from a neighbor’s house and shot Sheldon and Day after Moulton, who had gone to the residence, went into the bathroom. He said they planned to shoot Moulton non-fatally to make it appear like he was not involved, but Moulton told him to run instead. Hamel said he buried the gun off Oak Street, and later led police to the weapon.
In the search of Hamel’s residence police seized clothing, his computer, a phone, a carry bag and a plastic bag with spent shotgun shells. Benson said it was reasonable for police to conclude that evidence related to the homicides or other links to the victims could be found at Hamel’s residence or on his computer. He said that neither the search of the computer nor Hamel’s MySpace records revealed “anything of evidentiary value.”
Benson said that while the state agrees that Hamel could be considered in custody for most of the interview, he gave a “clear, unambiguous waiver” of his Miranda rights. He said Hamel agreed to speak with police and continued speaking without requesting a lawyer after he began to discuss the murders. Benson added that Hamel told police he understood his rights, that there was no police coercion in the interview, and no evidence that Hamel was mentally impaired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Benson said there was also no coercion in Hamel’s agreement to give police a DNA sample by a cheek swab. He said Hamel agreed to the sample by saying, “OK,” and, “I don’t mind.”
Christopher Overdorf, a resident who witnessed a person leaving Day’s house after the shooting, picked Hamel out of a photo lineup of six men after saying he recognized Hamel’s nose. Benson said that while Overdorf said he had seen a picture of Hamel on a news Web site due to his arrest, he was told to disregard that picture and that it might not appear in the lineup. He said police did not say he had chosen the correct person and also that Overdorf was not a direct witness to the murders.
“While certainly, he had specific reasons for remembering him, he did not remember him in the context of a crime, a classic reason for making a misidentification,” Benson said.
In another recent motion, Hess asked for an extension of time to file motions for expert witnesses. He said he would not know whether he will want funds for a latent impression expert until he receives the state’s report on fingerprint evidence.