NEWTON — From the time officers rushed to a North Newton duplex and started talking with Chad Carr, and throughout two interviews, officers followed the law in getting information from him, a judge ruled Thursday.
Harvey County District Judge Richard Walker made the finding in overruling a move by Carr's lawyer to suppress statements that Carr gave officers. The officers were responding to a 911 call that Carr made and investigating the death of 19-month-old Vincent Hill last March.
Carr, 27, who was the live-in boyfriend of Vincent's mother, has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and child abuse in Vincent's death. Authorities say the boy suffered broken bones and injuries throughout his body. Carr's trial will begin Jan. 24.
On Tuesday, Walker heard three officers testify about the case. Before his ruling Thursday, the judge also reviewed more than three hours of video recordings of investigators' interviews with Carr, during which Carr said he didn't know how the fatal injuries occurred and denied causing them.
In the interviews, Carr said he sometimes put a cloth in Vincent's mouth when he was whiny and that he once tied the toddler's hands with the boy's shirt sleeves — to keep the child from picking things up off the floor.
Carr told the investigators that the night before Vincent went to the hospital, he put him to bed at 9 and stayed up until 4 a.m. Carr said he had no contact with Vincent until he woke up between 3 and 3:30 p.m. and found Vincent not breathing. Vincent's mother, Katheryn Nycole Dale, was gone that day at a baby shower, Carr said.
Authorities also questioned Dale, who they found to be complicit in the abuse her son suffered. She pleaded no contest to child abuse and aggravated child endangerment and has been sentenced to more than three years in prison.
Carr's attorney, Charlie O'Hara, argued in court Thursday that officers used "some trickery" in getting statements from Carr.
Officers who arrived at the home after Carr called 911 to report that Vincent wasn't responsive began questioning him there and took photographs. No one read him his rights at the time, and he was later commanded to go to the sheriff's department, O'Hara said.
During an interview before Carr was arrested, a sheriff's detective confronted him and called him a liar, O'Hara said.
But the prosecutor, County Attorney David Yoder, defended the officers' actions, saying that they were simply responding to an emergency call and were trying to get information that might help with the boy's emergency medical treatment.
Carr gave the officers permission to look around the North Newton duplex where Vincent was living, and officers never ordered him to go the sheriff's department, Yoder said.
For the most part, the detective who interviewed Carr conducted the interview in a "conversational manner," Yoder said.
Before two interviews, investigators informed Carr of his Miranda rights and made sure he understood them, and he clearly spoke to them voluntarily, Yoder said.
After hearing the arguments, Walker ruled that all of the statements could be admitted, that "no violations occurred ... at any stage."
The officers who responded to the 911 call at the North Newton home were reasonably seeking information that could help with the medical treatment, and they were not treating Carr at that point as a suspect, Walker said.
The judge said he also determined that authorities only requested — not commanded — that Carr come to the sheriff's office and provide information.
A written statement Carr gave was voluntary, and investigators appropriately advised him of his rights before interviewing him, Walker ruled.
During the first interview, hours after an EMS crew took Vincent to a hospital, Carr never said he wanted to leave or wanted a lawyer, Walker said.
During the second interview, with a KBI special agent, Carr was informed of his rights, signed a waiver and didn't appear to feel coerced, Walker said.
When, about an hour and a half into the second interview, Carr said he was through taking questions and wanted to speak to a lawyer, the KBI agent stopped the questioning, Walker said.