Craig Craig murder suspect Leroy Fief’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination were not violated in the aftermath of the Dec. 9 death of Shane Armondo Arrendondo in a downtown parking lot, a Moffat County judge ruled Wednesday.
As a result of Chief Judge Michael O’Hara’s ruling, evidence against Fief, including his own alleged admission of guilt, won’t be suppressed when the first-degree murder trial begins later this year.
O’Hara’s decision came at the end of a lengthy motions hearing that lasted several days. The motion to suppress certain evidence was filed by Craig attorney Jeremy Snow, who is defending Fief.
Fief, 48, is charged in district court with first-degree murder for the Dec. 9, 2012 stabbing death of Arrendondo. Fief suspected his wife, Rose Fief, was having an affair with Arrendondo, according to court records. During a preliminary hearing in February, Rose admitted she was romantically involved with Arrendondo.
A second charge of menacing, a Class 5 felony, was added to the case against Fief earlier this month.
Citing pretrial hearing testimony from several local law enforcement officers, Snow filed the motion to suppress certain evidence at trial on the grounds that his client’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated.
Snow alleged several instances immediately following the crime in which Fief was either distracted when receiving his Miranda rights advisement or was denied his right to remain silent while under Craig Police Department interrogation at the Moffat County Public Safety Center.
Fief is cited in court documents as making several statements admitting his guilt to law enforcement officers immediately after his arrest and while under interrogation.
Specifically, Snow said Investigator Norm Rimmer coerced incriminating information from Fief by using deceitful police interrogation methods. In one instance, Snow said Rimmer lied to Fief when the defendant asked about Arrendondo’s condition.
Rimmer knew Arrendondo was pronounced dead shortly after the victim’s arrival at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, according to his testimony during the pretrial hearing in February. Rimmer further testified that he intentionally misled Fief about Arrendondo’s condition hoping it would spur an interview with the suspect, which it did.
This kind of questioning “essentially guts Miranda to almost nothing,” Snow said. “Alluding to information they may be compiling (during the course of an investigation) is purely designed to coerce a statement.”
Matt Tjosvold, chief deputy district attorney in Moffat County, countered by citing several pieces of case law that state law enforcement officers are under no obligation to provide suspects with the details of an ongoing investigation.
Tjosvold also addressed the argument that Fief may not have understood his Miranda rights because he was distracted when he received them.
“Considering we know Mr. Fief was previously an MP (military policeman) with the Marines Corps and a jailor, a reasonable person would be left to assume he was trained on Miranda rights or would be familiar with them at a minimum,” Tjosvold said.
O’Hara agreed and highlighted several instances in which evidence supported the claim that Fief provided information to law enforcement officers voluntarily.
“I didn’t read any statements or hear any testimony that Fief’s statements were anything other than voluntary,” O’Hara said. “There also is plenty of evidence to suggest Mr. Fief understood his rights and provided officers with a waiver of those rights.”
Fief is scheduled to return to district court at 1:30 p.m. June 25 for a pretrial conference. A two-week jury trial, originally scheduled to begin June 17, has been pushed back to the week of Sept. 16.
Fief is being held without bond at Moffat County Jail.
Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com