Attorney questions evidence in local killing
Craig Police Department stands behind its interrogation, investigation techniques
October 28, 1999
The 14th Judicial District deputy district attorney may not be able to use an alleged killers statement that “I killed my husband” as evidence to convict her because the opposing attorney contends the admission was illegally obtained.
Luree Highpines Nelums, 44, has been charged with manslaughter after her husband, Gordon Ray Nelums, 48, was found stabbed in the femoral artery of his left thigh in a room in the Colorado Inn motel in Craig June 11.
Hammond, a public defender who also works for Oliphant, Hammond and O’Hara attorneys from Steamboat Springs, contends Nelums didn’t sign a statement saying she understood her rights and did not waive those rights so all information obtained during her questioning and any evidence gathered as a result of her statements should not be allowed to surface at a trial.
Hammond filed the motion to suppress evidence Wednesday and an evidenciary hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 13.
According to Hammond’s motion, when officers arrived at the scene of the killing, Nelums was out of control so former Craig Police Department officer Eric Cox handcuffed her. She was placed in a patrol car by officer Caroline Miller and questioned, but according to Miller’s statement, Nelums did not give any coherent answers.
At 6:02 a.m., 40 minutes after officers arrived on the scene, Nelums was transported to the police station. Hammond stated that during this time, officers officially questioned Nelums.
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Lt. John Forgay of the Craig Police Department said he attempted to advise Nelums of her Miranda rights once she reached the police station, but Nelums refused to sign a statement saying she understood them.
“Nonetheless, officers Miller and Forgay continued to question (her) for several hours without a break,” Hammond stated in his motion. “The statements elicited by Miller and Forgay were not made after a full, proper and timely advisement of constitution, statutory and procedural rights.”
Forgay said these types of motions are common in a trial.
“I’m sure it’s pretty standard. They’re always looking to suppress evidence,” he said. “I don’t have any indication that anything was done improperly.”
Hammond stated that in the situation, a reasonable person in Nelums’ position would believe she was not free to leave and was in police custody which Nelums was officially not.
“Because (Nelums) never waived her rights, to remain silent and have counsel present at questioning, the police’s continued questioning of (Nelums) was in violation of her rights and any statements made must be suppressed,” Hammond’s motion reads.
Hammond cites this conduct as the unlawful obtainment of statements and stated the evidence obtained by officers were the result of this unlawful behavior a violation of the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution and of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Nelums remains an inmate at the Moffat County Jail on a $50,000 bond after a motion to reduce bond was declared abandoned by 14th Judicial Court Judge Joel Thompson. Thompson declared the motion abandoned because it was not returned by the Oct. 1 deadline specified in a court order.