Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Prosecutors seek trial stay

Appeal process cited as reason for murder case postponement

— The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office filed a motion Friday seeking to delay a December murder trial until the Colorado Supreme Court rules on an appeal filed in the case.

The motion to stay and vacate jury trial, filed in Moffat County District Court, is another step by the District Attorney's Office in the wake of a judge's decision earlier this month to suppress statements in the case against Terry Hankins, a 71-year-old miner.

Hankins, of Craig, is charged in District Court with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, Cynthia Hankins, also of Craig.

He has pleaded not guilty.

During a seven-day motions hearing, Michael O'Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District, ruled that three statements Hankins gave investigators Aug. 24, 2007, be suppressed because of a Miranda violation.

The judge also ruled that the trial, scheduled for two weeks beginning Dec. 1, be relocated from Craig to Steamboat Springs.

Carl Stahl, chief deputy district attorney, and Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney, filed a notice to appeal the statements' suppression Oct. 17 with the Supreme Court.

The notice stated that the appeal is "not taken for purposes of delay and the evidence suppressed is a substantial part of the proof of the charges pending against the defendant."

The motion to stay and vacate jury trial, which O'Hara will rule on, requests the trial be delayed until the Supreme Court hands down its ruling on the appeal. It states that the appeal "will not be decided before the trial is scheduled to begin," and failure to vacate the trial now "will also place an undue burden on witnesses and the victim's family."

"The matter will involve multiple witnesses, including several out of state witnesses, expert witnesses and the victim's family," according to the motion. "Vacating the trial only a few days or weeks before its currently scheduled time will require that these witnesses reschedule work and other affairs in anticipation of a trial that cannot be held before resolution of the People's appeal."

The statements under review are three separate, recorded interviews between Hankins and local investigators. Recordings of the interviews were played during the motions hearing.

On the recordings, Hankins was heard describing his wife's murder and later, dismemberment, after an altercation at the couple's Breeze Street apartment in Craig. He then buried Cynthia Hankins near his gold mining claim 23 miles north of town, near the Wyoming border.

However, O'Hara ruled Hankins had implicated himself and was, in reality, in police custody before the first confession and should have been read his rights. He found that the tainted first confession remained throughout the following interviews and that statements Hankins made were not admissible.

The judge used the statements' suppression as his basis for relocating the trial to Steamboat Springs, citing pretrial publicity of the statements in Moffat County as enough to possibly interfere with Hankins' right to a fair trial.

If prosecutors win the Supreme Court appeal and the statements are reintroduced as evidence, it is unclear whether they would seek to have the trial moved back to Moffat County.

Snow said Friday he could not comment on the case because it is ongoing.

Hankins has been in custody at the Moffat County Jail since his arrest 14 months ago. He has told authorities his wife's killing was in self-defense, and that she was violent, unstable, abusive and a drug addict.

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