Hankins' defense seeks venue change

Second day of motions hearing again focuses on recordings

The defense team for Terry Hankins filed a change of venue motion Friday in Moffat County District Court, seeking to move proceedings to another jurisdiction.

Hankins is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, 36-year-old Cynthia Hankins. Prosecutors allege he murdered his wife at their Craig apartment and then buried her body on his property north of Craig, near the Wyoming border.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Hankins' attorneys are public defenders Trevor McFee and Sheryl Uhlmann. Carl Stahl, 14th Judicial District chief deputy district attorney, is handling the case for the prosecution.

McFee cited "massive, pervasive and prejudicial pretrial publicity" about the case in the change of venue motion.

"If a community is prejudiced against a citizen or if other circumstances are likely to deny him a fair and impartial jury trial, then a change of venue must be granted," McFee wrote.

Later, he added, "Articles have repeatedly trumpeted inflammatory facts about the case, as related by law enforcement sources, including that Mr. Hankins confessed to committing his wife's murder, and gruesome details of the purported confession."

An affidavit in support of the motion to change venue, also filed Friday, cited various newspaper and Internet news site articles about the case.

Stahl filed a response Tuesday afternoon opposing the defense's motion.

He wrote that articles published about the case were "brief factual accounts of the issues presented by the parties and the Court's ruling on the same. None of the content of these articles was sensational, inflammatory or prejudicial to the defendant."

Stahl also wrote that the "publicity surrounding this homicide case is not so massive, pervasive and prejudicial as to create a presumption that the defendant cannot be accorded a fair trial in Moffat County."

He concluded his motion by writing that the people of Colorado and Moffat County have "an interest in having this case tried in the venue where the homicide occurred."

Michael O'Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District, has not ruled on the motions yet.

The change of venue motion filed Friday is similar to one filed by Uhlmann early last month in the murder case against Luz Cisneros in Routt County District Court.

Cisneros was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the Sept. 6, 2007, death of her infant daughter. That motion also cited "massive, pervasive and prejudicial pretrial publicity."

O'Hara also was the presiding judge in the Cisneros case, and denied the change of venue motion.

The second day of a five-day motions hearing Tuesday in Moffat County District Court picked up where it left off Monday - with a Craig Police Department detective on the witness stand, and the court's viewing of an interview with Hankins at the Moffat County Public Safety Center.

Attorneys in the case are attempting to resolve various motions in the week-long hearing, including four defense motions to suppress statements and evidence.

Johnson and Detective Jen Kenney, also of the Police Department, interviewed Hankins, who they said appeared voluntarily, on July 5, 2007.

Hankins, who has described his wife as an erratic, violent, drug user, among other things, was heard on the recording telling investigators his wife was having affairs with "both men and women" and was addicted to "just about everything."

He also made various other claims about his late wife, including that she dealt drugs, acted as a "pimp" for women in Craig and had bipolar disorder.

About 34 years her senior, Hankins said the couple's relationship began with her acting as more caregiver than spouse, and that he provided for her financially and materially.

However, he described a relationship that deteriorated quickly, as Cynthia Hankins' behavior became more and more unpredictable.

Still, despite his claims about her character and behavior, he told investigators that he loved his wife.

"I don't want you to think bad things about Cynthia," he said on the recording. "She was a pretty good person at heart."

Later, he added, "I hate to be negative about Cynthia because she had a lot of good features."

But, while he was telling investigators these things, Hankins also contended she had simply left the area without explanation. He mentioned Texas and Montana as possible locations where she might have gone.

"She's alive somewhere," he said. "I think she's alright somewhere."

"In your heart, do you think she's alive?" Kenney later asked him during the interview.

"Yeah, I think so," he answered.

When questioned at a later interview with investigators on his property north of town, Hankins became irritated, asked investigators to leave and not come back without an arrest warrant, cutting off further cooperation, according to an audio recording.

The motions hearing Tuesday ended with one of Hankins' attorneys, Uhlmann, questioning Johnson.

His testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. today. The motions hearing is scheduled to conclude Friday.

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