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Judge admits suspect’s statements to police in murder trial

Statements made to police during a homicide investigation will be admitted during a trial of the man suspected of killing Terry Luukkonen.

Chief Public Defender J. Patrick O’Neill opposed admitting statements made by Juan Leonardo Padilla, 43, of Fort Mohave, Ariz., during an interview following his arrest. O’Neill argued the exchange between Padilla and Superior Police Detectives Kirk Hill and Chris Moe inferred Padilla didn’t waive his right to have an attorney present during questioning.

“The interview should have stopped at that time,” O’Neill said.

However, Judge George Glonek didn’t agree. The law allows police to continue questioning a suspect whether or not an attorney is present, the judge concluded.

According to a ruling filed Friday in Douglas County Circuit Court, the judge concluded “he (Padilla) referred to himself ‘like being in shock right now wondering what’s happening.’” The judge concluded statements made by Padilla were insufficient to invoke Padilla’s rights to counsel and did not make it clear to police Padilla wanted an attorney present.

Padilla’s attorney said he was concerned time may have lapsed from the start of the interview and the time officers started recording the interview.

“The recording was turned on, I believe, by Duluth police,” Moe testified in May. “Mr. Padilla was brought into the room prior to us, so all of our contact with him was recorded. Then we went into the room. So we had no contact with him that was not recorded ... either before or after that interview.”

Glonek also admitted statements during a May hearing by David Vadbunker of Birdsdale, Colo., a former Padilla colleague in Fort Mohave, Ariz. Vadbunker said during a hearing in May, he knew Padilla briefly in December 2012 — both worked at a business there.

Vadbunker, who had previously worked at Linxx Global Solutions, a private security firm, said about a week after Padilla started working at the Fort Mohave business, he asked Vadbunker if he knew — in the course of his previous employment — of any contractor who could “take care of a problem.”

Vadbunker testified by telephone that even if he knew someone like that, it’s not information he would share with someone he just met.

Vadbunker said Padilla never identified anyone in the course of the conversation, but did indicate that someone was getting in the way of a relationship.

Glonek ruled the statements admissible, as were statements made by Suzanne Fleischmann, owner of the Allyndale Motel in Duluth where Padilla was arrested last year.

Fleischmann said she’d had limited conversations with Padilla, but he told her that he had a girlfriend and they were planning to get married. She said she had not met the girlfriend, but she had seen a woman at the motel, describing Christin Weir’s long, curly hair.

Weir was engaged to Luukkonen at the time of the shooting, and had broken off a relationship with Padilla, according to statements made to police.

Weir testified during a preliminary hearing last year that she had gone to the motel after Padilla showed up unexpectedly at her home.

O’Neill stipulated to allow statements by three witnesses, including Luukkonen’s fiancée, Weir, who had broken off a relationship with Padilla prior to the May 23, 2013, shooting.

A trial is set for mid-August.