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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Attorneys representing former Colfax resident Richard Seehaver have filed a motion in Dunn County Circuit Court to suppress statements Seehaver made to investigators following the death of John Likeness in December of 2018.
Seehaver, age 53, appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court with one of his attorneys, Shelly Tomtschik, before Judge Rod Smeltzer for a motion hearing January 16.
Seehaver, who also is represented by attorney Donna Burger, is charged in connection with the death of 54-year-old John M. Likeness in Menomonie.
Seehaver and Likeness are both early 1980s graduates of Colfax High School, and according to the criminal complaint, Seehaver told investigators he had lived in the house in Menomonie with Likeness for a few months and had lived with Likeness in Cedar Falls before that.
Seehaver’s attorneys filed a motion to suppress statements he made to investigators during an interview at the Dunn County jail December 30, 2018, after Likeness’s death.
A forensic autopsy was conducted in Ramsey County, and the result listed homicide as the cause of death for Likeness and was due to the crossbow bolt on the left side of his chest and three gashes in his throat.
Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf is the prosecutor in the Seehaver case.
Kelly Pollock, a patrol lieutenant with the Menomonie Police Department, testified January 16 she had started out the interview using casual conversation with Seehaver to check his awareness of basic information about himself.
Seehaver was a known user of methamphetamine, Pollock said.
The initial questions were not incriminating, she said, adding that she had also asked if Seehaver wanted to be called “Richard, Rich or Mr. Seehaver.”
Investigators had also brought soda pop and water with them, and when Seehaver was offered a beverage, he selected a Mountain Dew, she said.
Pollock said she had read Seehaver his Miranda rights, and Seehaver said he did not want to talk and that the police officers should kill him, to which Pollock said she had replied she did not want to do that.
In addition, Seehaver said if “he was smart” he would “shut his mouth” and “lawyer up,” but that would not be the right thing to do, she said.
Pollock said it was her impression Seehaver was waiving his right to remain silent and that he never said he wanted to stop talking and have an attorney present.
Seehaver gave information on killing Likeness. He recalled the police officer looking in the window at him and also described how he had killed the victim after he shot him with a crossbow, Pollock said.
During the interview, Seehaver also talked about aliens, an “upper echelon,” and the Aryan Brotherhood, she said.
Seehaver was able to answer questions when directed back to the question, and when he was asked if he understood his Miranda rights, he replied, “Oh yes, I do,” Pollock said.
Jail staff had determined Seehaver should wear “suicide attire,” but he was uncooperative, she said.
Prior to Pollock’s reading of the Miranda rights, Seehaver made statements saying he had done “what the devil had asked him” and also said he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Pollock said.
Seehaver told investigators he should say he had forgotten to take his medication and that he did not remember what happened and then he “could get off,” she said.
Seehaver also answered questions about his history and his life with John Likeness and said he had grown up with Likeness, she said.
When investigators asked Seehaver about medications he was taking or was supposed to be taking, he said, “don’t go there,” Pollock said.
Michael Sampson, a drug investigator with the Menomonie Police Department, also had taken part in the interview with Seehaver.
Sampson said he’d had prior contact with Seehaver and had responded to a call about an intoxicated woman sleeping in Seehaver’s bed.
The call had been on Veterans’ Day, and Likeness had said he was a veteran, Sampson said.
When asked why Seehaver had not been given his Miranda rights immediately, Sampson said they were determining whether Seehaver was under the influence of methamphetamine because he was a known user.
Sampson said they did not pressure Seehaver to speak to investigators.
Tomtschik noted Sampson’s report had stated Seehaver’s comments were random and rambling.
Sampson said he could understand what Seehaver was saying but that his comments were random and unorganized, and Sampson said he was not aware of the schizophrenia until Seehaver had said so.
When asked if Sampson believed Seehaver was “in touch with reality,” Sampson replied that he did believe Seehaver was in touch with reality.
At times Seehaver was random and rambling and at times he was in touch with reality enough to answer questions, Tomtschik said.
Sampson reiterated he believed Seehaver was in touch with reality “the entire time.”
When asked what Sampson’s basis was for believing Seehaver was in touch with reality for the entire conversation, Sampson said when Seehaver was asked specific questions, he would answer the questions.
But within Seehaver’s answers there would be other information, Tomtschik said.
Seehaver would answer the question, and then he would continue to talk, and if he was redirected back to the question, he would answer the question, Sampson said.
What was Seehaver doing when he was talking about subjects other than the question? Nodolf asked.
Seehaver was trying to dominate the conversation. He was trying to “run” the conversation and distract from the interview, Sampson said.
During a court hearing February 28, 2019, after the court received a competency evaluation completed by Dr. Donna Minter, a clinical psychologist, Judge Smeltzer ordered Seehaver remanded to the Mendota Health Institute for medication and treatment.
Dr. Minter indicated Seehaver’s competency would be restored with medication and treatment, and after Seehaver was determined to be competent, he could return to the court for further proceedings.
Another competency evaluation was submitted to the court in May of 2019, and Seehaver was determined to be competent to proceed with the case.
At the January 16 court hearing, Tomtschik noted Dr. Minter’s report in the court file dated February 25, 2019.
Nodolf cited a case called Colorado vs. Connelly 479 US 157 (1986).
According to various online sources, in the Connelly case, Francis Connelly approached a Denver police officer and said he wanted to talk about a murder he had committed. The police officer read Connelly his rights, and Connelly continued to want to talk about the murder.
The police officer called a detective, who also read Connelly his rights, but Connelly still wanted to talk about the murder. Connelly waived his right to have an attorney present and then described details of the murder.
Not long after, a judge determined Connelly was not mentally capable of standing trial, and Connelly received treatment for six months.
The court then ruled Connelly’s confession was not allowed to be used in court because Connelly had waived his Miranda rights at a time when he was incompetent because of mental illness.
The case went to the Colorado Supreme Court where the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Connelly’s confession was suppressed under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, according to the Colorado Supreme Court decision.
The case then went to the United States Supreme Court, which decided Connelly’s confession should not have been suppressed because of a sentence in Miranda vs. Arizona that states confessions can only be thrown out if the government is coercive in an interrogation. Coercion is necessary to make a confession not be voluntary for the purpose of due process.
Taking Connelly’s voluntary statements into evidence did not violate the due process clause, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
In the wake of the Connelly case, the defendant must show that police misconduct occurred and a confession was coerced. Unless there was police misconduct, and the misconduct caused the confession, questions of free will and rational decision-making are not relevant in a due process claim.
Judge Smeltzer set a deadline of February 7 for Nodolf to file a brief with the court and set a deadline of February 21 for Seehaver’s attorneys to respond to Nodolf’s brief.
Judge Smeltzer is scheduled to issue his decision in Dunn County Circuit Court March 2 at 11:45 a.m.
Tomtschik also told the court Seehaver was asking to have his bail reduced.
A $200,000 cash bail had been set January 2, 2019, but Judge Smeltzer increased the cash bail to $500,000 on January 14, 2019.
Nodolf said she strongly objected to reducing Seehaver’s bail.
First degree intentional homicide carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Seehaver has an incentive to flee, and because of the alleged violent nature of the crime, the safety of the public must also be taken into consideration, Nodolf said.
Judge Smeltzer said he had reviewed the case file and that he was denying the request to modify the bail amount.