Hankins murder trial back in Moffat County
In a court order filed Tuesday, Judge Michael O'Hara agreed with a motion from the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office to return the murder trial of Terry Hankins to Moffat County District Court.
Hankins, a 72-year-old Craig resident, is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Hankins.
He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a three-week jury trial beginning June 15.
Until Tuesday, attorneys had planned to argue his case in Routt County District Court in Steamboat Springs.
O'Hara, chief judge for the 14th Judicial District, reversed a ruling he made last fall by agreeing to bring the trial back to Craig.
In the order O'Hara signed this week, he wrote that his original decision was based on the fact he suppressed three recorded statements Hankins made to law enforcement during the investigation of Cynthia's disappearance, which the prosecution planned to use as confessions.
During a motions hearing in September 2008, prosecutors presented recorded confessions of Hankins admitting to killing, dismembering and disposing of his wife. The judge ordered those statements suppressed because he thought investigators had committed a Miranda violation.
O'Hara wrote that "pervasive" coverage of Hankins' statements and other details about the case published in the Daily Press convinced him that the defendant could not receive an impartial trial in Moffat County or, specifically, a jury that would not consider Hankins' recorded statements in its verdict.
However, on Feb. 23 the Colorado Supreme Court reversed O'Hara's suppression order, bringing his statements to law enforcement back into the case.
"This court has no doubt that most potential jurors will have heard or read about this matter," O'Hara wrote. "However, in this court's experience, most potential jurors will agree that not everything printed in the newspaper turns out to be true. : This court will not conclude that the existence of accurate news coverage : creates an unfair jury."
District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said bringing the case back to Moffat County was important for Cynthia's family and witnesses in the case, who now won't have to travel to Steamboat for the trial.
Hankins has been in custody at Moffat County Jail since August 2007.