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Archive for Thursday, October 19, 2000

Ruling deals blow to suspect in murder case

25-year-old’s statements to police ruled admissible at trial

October 19, 2000

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— A federal magistrate late Tuesday recommended that statements Keith D. Nelson allegedly made to authorities after his arrest be admitted at trial.

Attorneys representing Nelson are trying to keep those statements from being offered as evidence at his trial on murder charges.

Nelson, 25, faces capital kidnapping and sexual abuse charges in federal court in the death last year of 10-year-old Pamela Butler.

The girl was abducted in October 1999 while in-line skating near her Kansas City, Kan., home, and her body was later found near a church in Grain Valley, Mo.

In an 18-page ruling released late Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Sarah Hays recommended that FBI agents and police officers could testify about most of what Nelson allegedly said after his arrest.

Defense attorneys have denied that Nelson made the statements and can appeal to trial Judge Fernando J. Gaitan.

Nelson's attorneys also argued Nelson was not properly informed of his Miranda rights, was in severe pain from an injured leg, or was heavily medicated at the time.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the magistrate's report. An attorney for Nelson could not be reached for comment.

In court records, defense lawyers Susan Hunt and William Shull also asked the federal court to consider a recent Federal Bureau of Investigation report from an interview with a railroad worker.

The report contradicts a Kansas City, Kan., police officer's testimony about Nelson's arrest on the banks of the Kansas River last year. The officer arrested Nelson after Nelson injured his leg.

The officer testified during a hearing in April that, after he helped Nelson out of the river, someone nearby shouted, "What about the girl?"

The officer said Nelson answered, "I know where the girl is, but I am not saying anything right now."

The defense lawyers deny that, instead pointing to a June interview with a railroad worker who said he watched the arrest but did not see police questioning Nelson.

The worker also said he did not hear any questions or statements directed to Nelson, nor any response from Nelson.

But after reviewing the FBI report, Hays suggested the worker was simply too far away.

"Despite (Nelson's) argument, there has been no evidence presented that (Nelson) did not make the statement attributed to him at the time of his arrest," Hays wrote.

Hays also recommended that at least some testimony from an FBI agent be admitted, saying the comments Nelson made were unprompted and voluntary, even though Nelson had been advised of his right to remain silent.

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