Motion to suppress tape recording denied

Judge also denies change of venue in Hampson murder case

Attorneys on Wednesday debated whether a taped recording conversation between 27-year-old murder suspect Luther Hampson and a police informant should be suppressed.

April Hawley, a friend of the defendant and the man killed, contacted the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office after she became convinced Hampson had something to do with the killing of Dolores resident Jonathan Hayes, 27, whose body was found by hikers Jan. 14, 2012 near Dolores.

The defense hoped to suppress the tape recording with Hampson, arguing Hampson's rights to privacy were violated.

Hawley, under questioning from defense attorney Justin Bogan, testified that she knew the lead detective from a previous case. She said she developed a professional working relationship with MCSO detective Tyson Cox, who worked to obtain a conviction against a suspect accused of molesting her daughter in 2009. The judge ruled there was not enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Hawley said she did appreciate the work of the detective on the 2009 case, but added it has nothing to do with the Hampson case.

Days before the killing, Hawley testified that Hayes came to her house and was later joined by Hampson.

She testified that she knew that there were bad feelings between the two men but when Hampson arrived, she told him that the disagreement stopped at her doorstep.

The next morning Hayes and Hampson came to her house like they were best friends. Hampson said he and Hayes were going for a walk. Hayes wanted to take his bike, but Hampson said they were not going too far, she testified.

The following day, Hawley said she saw Hampson's hand had been wrapped and when asked about it he said he did not want to talk about it.

When Hayes' body was found, Hawley said she started to piece things together and showed police a secluded place where she and Hampson had previously visited, which was where Hayes' body was discovered.

She said Hampson never admitted to her that he did anything to Hayes.

After talking with detectives for more than six hours, a detective asked Hawley if she could record a conversation with Hampson in hopes he would make some incriminating statements.

Hawley agreed, and added she asked for help in a check-cashing federal case she was facing. MSCO investigators told her they could not help her with that case.

"Someone had to speak for Jonathan," she said, adding what she received from the sheriff's office for her assistance was a thank you.

She also testified that she was a member of the Norteno street gang and mentioned the detectives gave her a few ideas on how to bring the murder topic up when recording the conversation.

A detective, she said, told her with your background you probably know what to say.

She testified that Hampson told her he "graduated," a slang term for committing a crime. He told her he was the sheriff of this town and asked her for a gun so he could go on a shooting spree.

She also testified that he did not appear to be under influence of drugs during the conversation.

Jack Roth, from the Colorado Attorney General's Office, who is assisting the DA's office with the case, asked her what background she had with criminal cases, and she testified she worked at a fast food restaurant.

"I felt (like) I needed to do something," she said. "Jonathan was like my brother. "I said 'yes, I would do anything to help Jonathan.'"

The recording took place in Hawley's bedroom, and Roth said this shows that Hampson did not have a right to privacy in this location.

Katie Telfer, the other attorney for Hampson, said Hawley was acting as an agent for the sheriff's office, and the recording idea was brought up by an investigator and even strategies and questions were given to her to record the conversation.

She said Hawley testified she was exhausted and wanted some assistance on her federal complaint.

District Judge Douglas Walker said that Hawley was a citizen who was trying to do something to help her friend and that there was no evidence of coercion.

He also said recording the conversation could not be called an interrogation, and there was nothing Hawley did which would have made Hampson nervous during the recording before denying the motion to suppress the recording.

Walker granted the motion to suppress Hampson's medical records, saying he erred in looking at them before realizing he should not have done this. He said what he read would never be revealed.

Walker also denied the motion for change of venue, as the defense argued about the coverage the local media had been reporting on the case. Bogan mentioned a Feb. 23 Cortez Journal article had been published after he had filed the change of venue motion.

Walker told Bogan that he can bring the matter up again at a later date.

The judge also set a hearing for March 18, so the attorneys can present questions they would like to ask jury applicants.

Walker said 400 residents would be called for jury duty.

Seating a jury could take close to three days with the first witness taking the witness stand on April 4. The trial is expected to last seven working days once a jury is seated.