Murder suspect wants charges dropped
Citing shoddy police work at the crime scene, the public defender has filed a motion to dismiss allegations against murder suspect Lauren Hayes.
Nevada County Public Defender Thomas Anderson filed the motion last week, “based on failures of the government to properly secure, preserve and protect critical and exculpatory evidence.”
Anderson claims Nevada County Sheriff’s deputies destroyed footprints, tire marks and blood evidence in and around the Cadillac in which Lawrence Leffingwell’s body was found Sept. 5, 2003.
Hayes, Leffingwell’s ex-girlfriend, was charged with his murder and pleaded innocent Sept. 24, 2003.
The trial is set for Feb. 15 in Nevada County Superior Court.
Included in Anderson’s motion is a report by forensic scientist Dr. John Thornton. Thornton’s report is based on a videotape of deputies processing the crime scene.
Anderson says the sheriff’s department allowed a woman onto the crime scene and close to the body to calm Leffingwell’s dog, which was removed from the car by an Animal Control officer.
Thornton states the woman could have altered or contaminated evidence. The report also alleges deputies mishandled the firearm later determined by the California Department of Justice to be the murder weapon.
Allegedly handling the weapon without gloves when they first encountered it, Thornton’s report states deputies removed the rubber grips to retrieve a serial number.
“The failure of the officers to properly maintain the integrity of this evidence … comes dangerously close to a willful destruction of evidence,” Thornton states.
Deputy District Attorney Ron Wolfson said Anderson’s claims will be easily refuted.
“I can tell you with confidence that (the motion) is without merit and we’re confident it will be denied,” Wolfson said Wednesday.
Anderson also claims deputies stored the Cadillac in the county sheriff’s evidence yard with a missing window for months, exposing physical evidence to rain and snow.
Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal said he thought it would be inappropriate to comment on Anderson’s claims until after a judge rules on the motion. A Nevada County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear Anderson’s motion and Wolfson’s opposition at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in Nevada County Superior Court.
To contact Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@ theunion.com or call 477-4236.
Nevada County Public Defender Thomas Anderson may call a psychiatrist to testify murder suspect Lauren Hayes suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
According to court records, Anderson disclosed that he may use testimony from a psychiatrist to explain why Hayes “gave divergent explanations of her conduct and knowledge of the alleged murder to law enforcement officers.”
Deputy District Attorney Ron Wolfson requested a court order to compel Hayes to be evaluated by a doctor of his choosing.
Judge John Darlington denied the order, citing Anderson’s position that testimony regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does not address Hayes’ state of mind at the time of the crime.
– Robyn Moormeister
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