Carbondale police find murder suspect’s passport in dumpster
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
More than a week after the Colorado Bureau of Investigation finished processing the scene of Carbondale’s first homicide in more than a decade, the main suspect’s passport turned up in a dumpster a few blocks away.
Arturo Navarrete-Portillo, 46, will face first-degree murder charges in the death of his wife, Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya, 30, once he is released from the hospital, where he is recovering from a traffic accident.
Navarrete-Portillo reportedly admitted to killing his wife to medical professionals while being flown to a second hospital after he rear-ended a cattle truck on Feb. 16, apparently shortly after the homicide. The crime scene was processed by the end of the next day while the passport was found Feb. 25 as part of a Carbondale police investigation of unauthorized dumping.
Police determined that a cleaning company that was authorized to use the dumpster had been hired to clear the crime scene — an apartment just west of downtown — after CBI’s departure.
“The CBI was not involved in the cleaning/clearing of property from the residence involving this case,” said Susan Medina, public information officer for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
As such, the incident doesn’t appear to be a breach in protocol.
“There’s no rule that makes them preserve the crime scene indefinitely,” said Denver defense attorney Wadi Muhaisen, who agreed to comment generally on matters of criminal evidence but not on the case itself.
Muhaisen added that any evidentiary concerns may still come up in court.
“The veracity of that evidence is a lot stronger if they follow that protocol correctly,” he said. “Juries want to be fair, and they want to know that the police did their job.”
The dumpster incident is just the latest oddity in the case, beginning with the suspect’s surprise admission on the flight to Grand Junction, turning a serious auto accident into a homicide investigation.
According to Muhaisen, a criminal confession made to health-care providers isn’t confidential under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as long as it doesn’t relate to the patient’s health, and would likely be admissible in court.
That’s likely the case even if the admission comes under the influence of some sort of pharmaceutical, for example if Navarrete-Portillo had been given pain medication.
“It would go to the weight and the veracity of their confession, but it wouldn’t exclude it,” Muhaisen said.
In any case, court proceedings can’t progress until the suspect has been officially arrested. A warrant has been issued under seal for when Navarrete-Portillo is “medically eligible for release,” according the CBI.
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