Alleged jewel thief says Pitco cop tricked her
A local judge is to decide by Nov. 6 whether or not to throw out most of the case against an alleged thief, on the grounds that the police tricked her into handing over evidence and a confession.
Running out of leads and desperate to solve their case, according to defense attorney Chip McCrory, the police illegally made an “implied promise” to Dayna Marie Hughes that if the stolen goods were returned, there would be no prosecution. Then, when the items were returned, the police arrested Hughes anyway, which McCrory said violated the law.
Police authorities, on the other hand, accused Hughes of fabricating the “promise” as a way to avoid prosecution, by twisting the words of a detective to suit her own needs.
According to police, Hughes stole three necklaces from the home of her employers, Terry and Roberta Turkat of Aspen, on Jan. 6, because she was angry over being fired and not being paid for housekeeping work.
When a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy contacted her about the three lost necklaces in early February, she denied having them.
According to Pitkin County Detective Ron Ryan, when he talked with Hughes in March, she still denied knowing where the necklaces were.
But Ryan admitted saying during a telephone conversation that the necklaces had “great personal value” for Roberta Turkat and that Turkat had told him she would “consider” foregoing prosecution if the necklaces were returned.
Ryan, questioned by McCrory on the stand, said he had not intended to offer Hughes immunity from prosecution, adding that in one conversation he told her, “I can’t make any deals.” But he conceded that he never mentioned to her that only the district attorney’s office could offer such deals.
Hughes called in early April to tell Ryan that the necklaces had appeared on her doorstep. Unable to reach Ryan, she left a message asking if he would cancel their appointment to meet later that day and call her back to make another appointment.
But Ryan went out to Hughes’ home anyway, accompanied by Aspen Police Det. Glenn Schaffer. After she turned over the necklaces, she wrote a statement admitting that she took the necklaces because she was angry, Ryan said. But then she grew upset, he said, and accused him of breaking the promise he had made, that there would be no prosecution if the necklaces were returned.
She repeated that claim on the stand Monday, although prosecutor Lawson Wills called her testimony into question, cast doubts on her memories of the sequence of events leading up to her arrest and called it “preposterous that any officer would say such a thing.”
Hughes admitted that her doctor “had me on four different kinds of antidepressants” in the wake of the birth of her baby in February, and that it may have affected her behavior and memory.
But McCrory, citing legal precedents, said that, regardless of Hughes’ ability to recall, Ryan’s own testimony about his use of Turkat’s offer to drop the charges constituted an “implied promise” that is forbidden in obtaining evidence or a confession.
He also said the statement Hughes wrote should be thrown out because it was obtained under “undue influence” or “coercion.” He maintained that because both Ryan and Schaffer were there Hughes felt “not free to leave” or order them out of her house.
Judge J.E. DeVilbiss said he would rule on the motion to suppress the evidence next week. But, he noted from the bench, he was troubled by Ryan’s use of Turkat’s statement about dropping the charges.
“That was designed to have some sort of influence on the defendant,” the judge declared.
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