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Archive for Friday, January 31, 2003

Suspect confessed to slaying, officer says

Defendant to stand trial in fatal stabbing

January 31, 2003

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David J. Uptain confessed earlier this month to killing a man he had just started staying with a few days earlier, a Lawrence Police detective said Thursday in Douglas County District Court.

Uptain said he stabbed Mike Riley, 49, during an argument about $50 that Riley was missing, Detective John Hanson testified in a preliminary hearing for Uptain, 31.

Uptain told detectives Riley threatened to kill him if he didn't come up with the money, Hanson said.

Prosecutors with the Douglas County District Attorney's Office, however, argued that Riley's wounds were far too numerous for the stabbing to be an act of self-defense.

Judge Paula Martin ruled that there was enough evidence to order Uptain to be tried for second-degree murder.

Uptain was arrested after police discovered Riley's body Jan. 4 in Riley's apartment at 1722 W. 24th St. The body was covered with numerous cuts, abrasions and stab wounds, Douglas County Coroner Dr. Erik Mitchell said.

"He died of multiple stab wounds," Mitchell said. "He bled to death."

Many of the wounds on Riley's body were superficial and most likely caused pain instead of death, Mitchell said.

In questioning after his arrest, Uptain twice confessed to killing Riley, Hanson testified.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Shelley Diehl said Uptain got a knife and attacked Riley during the argument, stabbing him in a struggle.

"He got up out of his chair, got the knife out of his backpack and followed Mr. Riley into the kitchen," Diehl said.

Uptain's attorney, Craig Stancliffe, noted that police allowed Uptain to take a small amount of prescription painkiller before he gave his confession.

Stancliffe said he intended to file a motion to suppress the confession. He also said he would ask the judge to declare the state's second-degree murder statute unconstitutional.

The statute was changed in recent years and now states second-degree murder is the intentional killing of another person, Stancliffe said. Removal of the word "malicious" from the statute, Stancliffe maintains, shifts the burden of proof to the defendant because he has to show that the killing was justified.

A hearing on Stancliffe's motions was scheduled for 3 p.m. March 21. No trial date has been set.

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