Admittedly, this is fascinating stuff, but why was this a public hearing?

Attorney moves to suppress confessions

By Beth Velliquette : The Herald-Sun

bvelliquette@heraldsun.com

Dec 15, 2004 : 10:05 pm ET

HILLSBOROUGH — A Carrboro police lieutenant testified Wednesday that he tried to trick Andrew Douglas Dalzell into thinking he was being arrested for first-degree murder by showing him a fake warrant and fake letter from the district attorney threatening him with the death penalty.

And Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison, who has remained publicly silent about the situation, thought the plan to make Dalzell think he could be executed if he didn’t immediately cooperate was “brilliant,” the officer testified.

Lt. John Lau told the story behind his plan during a pre-trial hearing on whether to throw out the confession Dalzell made in September about the disappearance and death of Deborah Leigh Key in 1997.

Dalzell, 28, faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Key, who was 38.

Key was last seen talking to and kissing Dalzell in a parking lot near a downtown Carrboro bar on Dec. 1, 1997. Dalzell confessed to strangling her and dumping her body in a Dumpster in Wilmington, according to testimony from two officers during Wednesday’s hearing.

Dalzell’s attorney, Orange-Chatham Public Defender James Williams, moved to suppress Dalzell’s statements, which include an oral confession, a handwritten confession and a typed confession.

The motion claims police didn’t follow legal procedure when arresting Dalzell because they didn’t tell him the real reason why he was being arrested, and because they interrogated him before telling him he had the right to remain silent and ask for an attorney.

Superior Court Judge Wade Barber didn’t rule on the motion Wednesday, saying it was a complex matter. He asked Williams and Orange-Chatham District Attorney Carl Fox to submit legal briefs, and he continued the hearing until Jan. 10.

Key’s sister, Susan Key Gagnon, sat in the front row with her husband and Key’s mother, Barbara Key. Gagnon held an 8-by-10-inch photograph of her sister standing next to a Christmas tree throughout the hearing, hoping that Dalzell would see it. But Dalzell, who grew up in the Carrboro area, didn’t appear to look at Key’s family during the hearing.

The first officer to take the stand was Cpl. Seth Everett, who drove to Stanley with Lau and other officers to arrest Dalzell for three property crimes. Another investigator, Anthony Westbrook, had warrants accusing Dalzell of financial identity fraud, possession of stolen property and obtaining property by false pretenses.

The authentic warrants stemmed from allegations that Dalzell stole fantasy figurines, merchandise and a credit card number from Hungate’s hobby shop, where he previously worked.

After arresting Dalzell, the officers put him into a police car, and Lau put a folded arrest warrant on the seat next to him. Even though Dalzell was being arrested in connection with the Hungate’s charges, the warrant, which was a fake, said first-degree murder.

Lau testified that he came up with a strategy to make Dalzell think he was being arrested for the murder of Key. He said he instructed the other officers to tell Dalzell the truth about the real warrants if Dalzell asked.

But if Dalzell didn’t ask, “we weren’t going to volunteer it,” Lau said. “That was part of the plan.”

Williams asked Lau if he knew about a state statute that requires officers to tell people under arrest why they’re being arrested as promptly as possible after they’re arrested.

Lau replied that the law required him to tell Dalzell the reason for his arrest if it wasn’t evident why he was being arrested.

“I believe he thought it was evident that he was being arrested for murder,” Lau said.

Earlier, Lau said he consulted other officers — among them Hutchison and the Carrboro Police Department’s head of investigations, Jim Phillips — about his plan.

“She thought it was brilliant,” Lau said about Hutchison. “She thought it was a very good idea.”

Lau also testified that he told Fox that he was going to draw up a fake first-degree murder warrant for Dalzell to see when they went to arrest him. “Our hope was that given the right set of circumstances, we could do this within the law and basically for him to give us a confession,” Lau said.

Lau said he asked Fox for a copy of his official letterhead, but didn’t tell Fox what he was going to write on it because he didn’t know yet.

After arresting Dalzell in Stanley, Lau showed Dalzell a letter the lieutenant wrote on the stationery and signed using Fox’s name. The letter said Fox was going to seek the death penalty against Dalzell and would not make any deals unless he led them to Key’s body immediately.

On the drive back from Stanley to Carrboro, which took about three hours, Everett, Lau, another officer and Dalzell stopped at a gas station to get some fuel. As the other officers went inside to use the bathroom, Everett said he noticed that Dalzell, who had his hands cuffed behind him, appeared uncomfortable.

Everett said he received permission from Lau to move the cuffs. As Dalzell sat in the car, Everett saw that he looked very pale, and asked if he was all right.

Dalzell “started crying, talking about his mother and his family and his girlfriend,” Everett said. “He stated his life was over as he knew it. He said he did not want to die, and I said I did not want him to die and that every life was worth a lot.”

Dalzell spoke more about his mother and family, and Everett told him the best thing was to tell the truth about what happened. Then Dalzell made what Everett called “a spontaneous utterance.”

“He stated he did not mean it to happen. It just happened. He took her body to Wilmington and put it in a Dumpster,” Everett said.

After they got back into the car and headed to Carrboro, nobody spoke, but as they neared Carrboro, Everett asked Dalzell if he wanted to talk to him when they got to the police station, and he said yes, Everett said.

When they arrived, he and Dalzell went into an interview room, and Everett showed him the fake letter again, Everett testified.

“He started crying and talking about his mother and family again,” Everett said.

Then Dalzell made a statement about what happened to Key, Everett said. After that Everett interrupted him and read him his Miranda rights. Dalzell signed a waiver saying he would agree to talk without an attorney present, Everett said.

Dalzell told more about what happened to Key, Everett said. Later that night, he wrote out statements by hand, and police let him use a computer to type a statement.

Later that night, Carrboro police charged Dalzell with second-degree murder.

Under questioning by Williams, Everett, Lau and another officer testified that they didn’t tell Dalzell the real reason he was arrested until they took him to the magistrate’s office at about midnight to obtain the warrant for second-degree murder.

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