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United States v. Owens

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 23, 2015



NANCY TORRESEN, District Judge.

Defendant Gregory Owens is charged with Interstate Domestic Violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2261(a)(1), (b)(2) and Discharge of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). This matter comes before the Court on the Defendant's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 40) and two motions to suppress (ECF Nos. 41 & 43).[1] I have considered the testimony, evidence, and arguments presented at the hearing on September 9, 2015, as well as both parties' supplemental briefs. For the reasons stated below, the Defendant's motions are DENIED.


The charges against the Defendant arise out of a shooting that occurred in the early hours of December 18, 2014 at a home on Hillview Avenue in Saco, Maine. I glean these facts from the testimony of Officer Randy Dyer, Sergeant Marc Beaudoin, and Detective Frederick Williams and from the exhibits offered by the parties.

On the night of the shooting Steven and Carol Chabot, the owners of the home, were hosting their longtime friend Rachel Owens, the Defendant's wife. At 2:47 a.m., Steven Chabot called 911 to report a shooting in his home. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 3 (ECF No. 54-1). When officers arrived, they learned that both Steven Chabot and Rachel Owens had been shot. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 3. Carol Chabot was found unharmed. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 3.

During the ensuing investigation at the Chabot residence, Rachel Owens was unresponsive, but Steven Chabot was able to speak. He told investigators that he had heard a noise coming from downstairs while he was in bed with his wife in their second floor bedroom. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 5. When they went into the hallway to investigate, Steven Chabot saw an individual walking up the stairs holding a gun. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 5. Steven Chabot described the subject as 5' 9" tall with a medium build and wearing all black clothing, including a black ski mask. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 5.

Carol Chabot did not see the subject but saw the look of fear on her husband's face when he saw the individual ascending the stairs. She ran to a nearby bedroom to hide. The intruder initially tried-but failed-to gain entry into the bedroom where Carol Chabot had barricaded herself. Thereafter, Carol Chabot heard Rachel Owens screaming, followed by gunshots and moaning. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 6. After shooting Rachel Owens three times, the intruder attempted to enter the locked bedroom where Steven Chabot was hiding. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 5. The intruder fired several shots through the bedroom door, striking Steven Chabot in the torso three times. Def.'s Ex. B ¶¶ 3-5. The intruder then fled, and Steven Chabot called the police. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 5.

The police discovered several 9mm bullet castings, large spots of what appeared to be blood on a carpet, and signs of forced entry through a glass door that had been broken in the back of the Chabot's garage. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 4. The police also discovered and took casts of boot prints at the scene. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 10 (ECF No. 54).

At approximately 4:20 a.m., Detective Fred Williams of the Saco Police Department contacted the Londonderry Police Department for assistance in locating the Defendant. Officer Randy Dyer and Officer Keith Lee of the Londonderry Police Department were dispatched to the Defendant's residence to check if the Defendant's motor vehicles were present. They were specifically instructed not to make contact with the Defendant. Officer Lee, who had a personal relationship with the Defendant, was aware that the Defendant possessed firearms, and as a result, the officers approached the home cautiously.

The Defendant's split-level house is at the end of a dead-end street lined with several other houses. There are no streetlights on the road. Officers Dyer and Lee arrived at 5:24 a.m., parked at the far end of the street, and walked toward the Defendant's home.

Photographs of the Defendant's house and yard, admitted as Defendant's Exhibits 3 and 4, show that the house sits back about forty feet from the street. As one faces the house from the street, on the ground floor of the left side of the house is a garage. A driveway runs from the garage straight to the street. A paved walk connects the driveway to the Defendant's front steps. At the foot of the driveway there is a mulched bed containing a mailbox and several bushes. To the left of the driveway is a side yard with a row of evergreen trees that sit back approximately 10-20 feet from the street and run parallel to the street. In front of the evergreen trees is a lawn area. There are no fences or signs posted on the Defendant's property.

As Officers Dyer and Lee approached they noticed lights on in the Defendant's house. At this point, a New Hampshire state trooper arrived with his cruiser's blue lights on. The officers stopped the trooper and asked him to turn off his lights. Around this time, the lights in the Defendant's home went off.

The police observed a vehicle parked on the upper part of the driveway with its nose facing the garage. At this point, Officer Dyer crossed the lawn in front of the evergreen trees, walked toward the vehicle, touched the hood, and determined that the engine was warm. He then retreated back to the evergreen trees, joined Officer Lee and the state trooper, and they all returned to their vehicles to sit watch.

Between around 6:00 and 6:30 a.m., the Defendant left his home and went to a nearby Circle K gas station. The officers followed and made contact with the Defendant at the gas station where they informed him that his wife had been shot. The officers noticed what appeared to be blood on the Defendant and along the driver's side armrest and steering wheel of the Defendant's vehicle. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 8. Around this time, Sergeant Marc Beaudoin of the New Hampshire State Police arrived at the Circle K gas station. By this time, Sergeant Beaudoin had learned that two people had been seriously injured in a shooting in Saco and that there was a suspect in Londonderry. Sergeant Beaudoin understood that the authorities in Maine did not know if the victims were going to live or die.

The Defendant agreed to go to the Londonderry Police Department for questioning. Sergeant Beaudoin, along with Sergeant Nicholas Pinardi of the Londonderry Police Department, conducted a recorded Mirandized interview. When Sergeant Beaudoin told the Defendant that his wife had been shot, the Defendant asked about his wife's status. When told his wife was alive but in surgery, the Defendant briefly lost his composure and then asked about her prognosis. The Defendant then asked what had happened, and Sergeant Beaudoin told the Defendant that the police were investigating. Def.'s Exhibit 1A, 2:29-3:08.

The Defendant told Sergeant Beaudoin that Carol Chabot had picked Rachel Owens up on Monday, December 15th to take her to Maine for a visit. His wife had been staying with the Chabot's-who are close family friends-for a few days. When asked about his whereabouts over the last day, the Defendant stated that:

• He woke up early on December 17th when the automatic light in his living room went on at 5:30 a.m. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 7:48-7:54.
• He worked throughout the day in his home office on a proposal for the Ukrainian government. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 8:00-8:20.
• He left to grab a coffee from the gas station at around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 8:35-8:44.
• He spoke with his wife on the phone at around 9:15 p.m. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 12:04-12:10.
• He continued to work on the project and then left his house between 12:30 a.m. and 12:45 a.m. to grab a diet soda and a pack of cigarettes from a nearby gas station. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 8:56-9:04.
• When he returned home, he worked for a few minutes. He then tried to go to sleep but got up to fix something in his project at about 2:30 or 2:45 a.m. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 10:30-10:44.
• Later that morning, he woke up early to check his email for work and then drove down to get a cup of coffee. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 9:14-9:36.

Later on in the interview, the Defendant gave a somewhat different account of what happened in the evening of December 17th into the early morning of December 18th.

• He went to bed around 11:45 p.m. or midnight but woke up around 2:30 a.m. to do some work on his computer. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 39:16-39:50.
• He went to Dunkin Donuts early in the morning on December 18th between 4:15 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. to get a coffee and donuts. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 40:06-41:16.

Sergeant Beaudoin left the interview around this point and Detective Jeff Cook of the Saco Police Department eventually took his place. The Defendant told Detective Cook about his midnight trip to the Circle K gas station and his early morning trip to Dunkin Donuts. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 1:24:56-1:27:18.

During the interview, Sergeant Beaudoin asked whether the Defendant owned any firearms, and the Defendant said he had an entire arsenal at his house. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 18:10-18:14. The Defendant explained that he had a rack of pistols because he trains with departments that work with 9mm handguns, GLOCK.40 handguns, and the new M&P.40. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 18:18-18:32. Sergeant Beaudoin then specifically asked the Defendant whether he owned any 9mm handguns, and the Defendant said that he owned two. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 19:40-19:44. Sergeant Beaudoin was aware that 9mm casings were recovered at the scene of the crime.

The officers also inquired about the amount of time it normally takes the Defendant to travel to Maine. The Defendant said that it normally takes him 2 hours and 10 minutes to drive from his home in Londonderry to Saco and it would take him longer if the weather was poor. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 25:28-25:46. However, the Defendant had told the officers earlier in the interview that it takes him about 90 minutes to travel to his wife's parents' home on Portland Road in Saco. Def.'s Ex. 1A, 6:10-6:26.

At one point during the interview, Sergeant Beaudoin pointed out that the Defendant had blood on his hand. Def.'s Ex. 1B, 10:58-11:00. The Defendant said he had cut his hand on a glass and that the broken glass was in the trash at his home. Def.'s Ex. 1B, 11:00-11:06. The officers later obtained the Defendant's consent to swab his hand for DNA testing and did in fact take a sample.[2] Def.'s Ex. 1B, 41:46-42:22.

After the interview ended, Sergeant Beaudoin and Detective Cook drove to the State Police Barracks in Bedford, New Hampshire to photograph the Defendant's vehicle. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 15. While taking pictures, Detective Cook observed blood on the steering wheel and driver's side door near the handle and noticed a pair of black boots in the back seat. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 15.

Later that day, the officers reviewed the surveillance videos from the Circle K gas station and Dunkin Donuts. The Defendant was at the Circle K gas station at 12:11 a.m. and Dunkin Donuts at approximately 4:50 a.m. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 16; Def.'s Ex. C ¶ 15 (ECF No. 54-2). In both surveillance videos, the Defendant was wearing dark clothing and dark boots similar to those in the Defendant's vehicle. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 16. The Defendant was wearing different clothing when he was interviewed by the police. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 16. Based on this, Sergeant Beaudoin suspected that the Defendant changed his clothing at his home after getting home from Dunkin Donuts. Def.'s Ex. A ¶ 16.

Detective Williams had responded to the scene of the shooting in the early morning hours of December 18th and had transported Carol Chabot back to the Saco Police Department. Thereafter, Detective Williams received periodic updates from his supervisor, Detective Sergeant Huntress, who was directing the investigation in Maine and receiving information from a number of different officers working on the case in both Maine and New Hampshire. Detective Williams drafted an affidavit outlining the investigation that was taking place in Maine.

Detective Williams's affidavit includes a description of the shooter provided by Steven Chabot. This description was relayed to Detective Williams by Detective Granata who was with the shooting victims at the hospital. The affidavit does not include a description from Carol Chabot because she never saw the intruder. Detective Williams drafted his initial affidavit before Rachel Owens could be interviewed by Detective Granata.[3] Detective Williams also did not include in his affidavit the fact that blood was not found at the point of entry into the Chabot's home and that the intruder was wearing gloves. Detective Williams testified that he did not include this information because he was not aware of it until months later.

Detective Williams's affidavit included information regarding the surveillance videos and travel times between Maine and New Hampshire. In paragraph 11 of his affidavit, Detective Williams stated that the Defendant was at Dunkin Donuts at 4:15 a.m. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 11. Detective Williams testified that he later learned that the Defendant was at Dunkin Donuts at 4:50, and he attributes the error to a miscommunication over the telephone. In paragraph 12, Detective Williams wrote that the Circle K gas station was 96 minutes away from the Chabot's home on Hillview Avenue in Saco and that the Dunkin Donuts was 88 minutes away from the Chabot's house. Def.'s Ex. B ¶ 12. Detective Williams used Google Maps to make these calculations. Detective Williams was aware that the Defendant had said it normally takes him 2 hours and 10 minutes to get from his home in Londonderry to Saco. At some point after he drafted this affidavit, Detective Williams learned that the Defendant's Transpass was not used on the night of the shooting.

Detective Williams finished his affidavit early in the morning of December 18th and emailed it to Sergeant Beaudoin. Sergeant Beaudoin attached Detective Williams's affidavit to his own search warrant affidavit as an appendix. At the time Sergeant Beaudoin drafted his affidavit, he knew that both shooting victims were still alive but was not sure whether they were going to make it. Sergeant Beaudoin was unaware that blood was not found at the point of entry into the Chabot's home. He also did not know about any reports describing the intruder as wearing gloves. He did, however, indicate in his affidavit that entry into the Chabot's house had been made by breaking a window and that the Defendant had a cut on his hand at the time of the interview.

Sergeant Beaudoin finished drafting and submitted his application for a warrant to search the Defendant's residence and vehicle around 10:15 p.m. on December 18, 2014. He received a fax of the warrant signed by a New Hampshire judge at 10:43 p.m. on December 18th. On December 19, 2014, the New Hampshire State Police conducted a search of the Defendant's residence and seized the Defendant's vehicle so that it could be transported to Maine to be searched.

On December 18, 2014, a Maine District Court Judge signed an anticipatory search warrant for the Defendant's vehicle, which was then still located in New Hampshire. See Def.'s Ex. B. This warrant was supported by Detective Williams's December 18, 2014 affidavit, and it authorized the search of the vehicle in Maine once the Maine authorities were allowed to take possession of the vehicle. Def.'s Ex. ...

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