A judge in the William Hargrove murder trial has ruled that most of the evidence the defense had asked to suppress can be admitted at trial but has not yet issued a decision on the prosecution’s motion to allow statements made by the suspect to investigators prior to his arrest.
Hargrove, 29, is accused of killing a 27-year-old Russian woman named Anna Repkina in April 2017 and leaving her body on a remote logging road outside Alsea as a result of what prosecutors have called “a problematic love triangle.” He has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges against him and is scheduled to go on trial in the fall.
On Monday and Tuesday, Hargrove was in Benton County Circuit Court as Judge Matthew Donohue considered pretrial motions from both the prosecution and the defense regarding the admissibility of evidence in the case. Also in the courtroom were Amie Matusko and Ryan Joslin of the Benton County District Attorney’s Office as well as Hargrove’s legal team, led by defense attorneys Mike Flinn and Thomas Hill.
Flinn filed a 97-page motion in late May asking Donohue to disallow evidence gathered from Hargrove’s cellphone and from 14 search warrants served at locations including the house where Hargrove lived in Albany, the Corvallis apartment he allegedly shared with Repkina and two vehicles owned by Hargrove.
The motion claims that police accessed Hargrove’s cellphone without a warrant and argues that any evidence gathered during subsequent warrant searches based on information gleaned from the phone is “fruit of a poisonous tree” and should be disallowed.
In court on Monday, Donohue ruled that the search warrants issued in the case and most of the searches, including the initial search of Hargrove’s phone, were legitimate and that evidence gathered through those searches can be admitted at trial.
However, the judge left hanging a question regarding some of the evidence gathered by investigators in searching Hargrove’s cellphone and other electronic devices. At issue is whether pieces of evidence that were discovered during those searches but not specifically listed in the authorizing warrants can be used by the prosecution.
The question comes down to a legal concept known as the “plain view doctrine,” which holds that law enforcement officers searching for specific types of evidence listed in a warrant can also seize other evidence as long as it is found in plain view during a legitimate search.
Donohue said he intends to rule later this month on the plain view evidence.
Most of the courtroom time on Tuesday was devoted to the prosecution’s motion asking the judge to rule that statements made by Hargrove before his arrest on April 20, 2017, are admissible.
The issue hinges on whether he was properly advised of his right to remain silent and his right to be represented by an attorney during questioning by Benton County sheriff’s detectives during a pair of interviews on April 19, 2017, two days after Repkina’s body was discovered.
Prosecutors played about one hour of audio recordings and nearly two hours of video in court on Tuesday.
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At first, the questions from detectives Chris Duffitt and Adam Miller are general in nature as they try to build a rapport with Hargrove and establish his whereabouts in the days leading up to the murder. Gradually, however, the questions get more and more probing.
In a dramatic exchange near the end of the video recording, Duffitt tells Hargrove that evidence potentially linking him to Repkina’s slaying — a receipt from a Corvallis fast food restaurant — was found at the murder scene.
“So, Will, your trash was found where somebody was killed,” Duffitt says.
Hargrove, sounding shocked, replies, “I’m sorry, what?”
Not long after, Hargrove — who until this point had been talking affably with the detectives — announces he has nothing more to say.
“If you guys are investigating me for this crime,” he says on the video, “I want a lawyer.”
Hargrove, shackled at hands, waist and feet and wearing a gray shirt and khaki slacks, sat quietly at the defense table throughout this week’s proceedings, jotting notes on a piece of paper and occasionally conferring with Flinn.
His mother, accompanied by two other women, watched from the courtroom gallery.
Duffitt took the stand on Tuesday afternoon, answering questions from both Joslin and Hill about the interrogation of Hargrove. Among the points of contention is whether Hargrove was properly advised of his Miranda rights and whether he could have been considered under arrest at any time during the questioning.
Court adjourned Tuesday afternoon without a final ruling on the pretrial motions.
The defense was directed to file a written response by July 16 to the prosecution’s motion to allow all of Hargrove’s statements at trial, and a hearing on that matter is scheduled for Sept. 9. An additional hearing has been added to the docket for July 25 to hear testimony on the plain view issue and oral arguments on both that and the Miranda issue.
A 12-person jury trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 24. In the meantime, Hargrove is being held without bail in the Benton County Jail.