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State v. Wheatley

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

April 28, 2016



          Joyce A. Wheeler Active Retired Justice


         Pending is Daniel Wheatley's motion to suppress evidence arising out of statements made by him to Detective Daniel L. Violette of the Westbrook Police Department on January 14, 2015 concerning sexual contact from the period of 1991 to 1998 with Travis, when Travis was under 14-years of age.[1] Wheatley is charged with eight counts of gross sexual assault, Class A, 17-A M.R.S.A. § 253(1}(B). Wheatley alleges in his motion that any statements he made were involuntary and made in the absence of the Miranda warnings under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436. 478-79, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed. 694 (1966). Wheatley relies in part on the fact that he is of below-average intelligence and was ill, throwing up at least six times during the interview. His morion raises questions about his ability to comprehend the circumstances and able to voluntarily make a statement.

         At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the State presented three witnesses, Peter Donnelly, Psy.D. and Detectives Violette and Desjardins of the Westbrook Police Department. The parties also stipulated to the admission of the forensic evaluation of Mr. Wheatley as well as a three-part audio/video police interview of Mr. Wheatley. After considering all of the evidence, this court concludes for the reasons set forth below that the motion to suppress is granted.


         The record contains these facts bearing upon voluntariness of Wheatley's statement. The court focuses on voluntariness because the detectives did not advise Wheatley of his Miranda rights and that omission relates directly to Wheatley's ability to understand whether he was in custody or subject to interrogation and hence capable of voluntarily making a statement

         Detectives Violette and Desjardins went to Wheatley's residence, dressed in plain clothes and identified themselves as detectives with the Westbrook Police Department. They stated that they wanted to talk to Wheatley "about a matter they were investigating relating to Travis." The detectives inquired whether he would come to the Public Safety Building to speak with the detectives. Once Wheatley said he would, the Detectives left. Just before they left, Wheatley asked whether he would need a lawyer. Detective Violette responded, "It is up to you." Detective Desjardin queried, "Why, do you need one?" Wheatley experienced the detectives' responses as confrontational. At no time, either at the residence or during the interview at the station, did the detectives advise Wheatley of the rights described in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

         After speaking with the officers, Wheatley showered, shaved and drove to the Westbrook Public Safety Building where Detective Violette met him in the vestibule of the Building. Detective Violette escorted him to the interview room in the Criminal Investigation Office. The interview room was 12 x 12, with one door and a table with three chairs. The room was equipped with audio and video recording devices, which were activated without Wheatley's knowledge! Detective Desjardins monitored the interview in the monitoring room.

         Detective Violette closed the door, stating "I closed the door for your privacy; don't want you to feel trapped in here." Violette told him that he met with Travis and wanted to discuss "stuff' reported by Travis yesterday. He told Wheatley that they discussed generally everything from when he was a child to the present. Violette stated that the discussion with Travis focused on Wheatley; revolved around Travis and Wheatley's relationship; and about Travis's mother being Wheatley's sister Ann. Violette advised Wheatley that Travis reported you and him were involved in sexual relations for an extended period of time. Violette told Wheatley, "Help me understand." Wheatley responded, "I know nothing about this. I took care of him since he was in diapers." Violette inquired, whether Wheatley was Travis' father. When Wheatley responded, "I don't know", Detective Violette inquired, "is it don't know or don't want to talk about it?" Wheatley responded, "Possibly both." Wheatley's facial expressions disclosed an anguished or troubled individual as the interview proceeded. Violette told Wheatley that Travis wanted to talk about that, that you or one of your brothers is his father. Detective Violette advised Wheatley, for the first time, he wants to help Travis find closure on that issue.

         Occasionally during the few times Wheatley spoke during the interview, Wheatley moved off topic, such as discussing whether Travis has limitations. The Detective sat to Wheatley's left and did most of the talking. Wheatley looked away from the Detective, staring off into the distance over his right shoulder. Wheatley went off topic again when Travis' girlfriend was mentioned. Violette brought him back on topic by stating, "Travis talked about the unusual relationship you have with each other; that is the focus of conversation with him and what I want to discuss with you." Detective Violette emphasized he was "on a quest for the truth." Throughout the interview, Violette continued to do most of the talking, repeating his statements and lecturing Wheatley on how he wants the truth from Wheatley.

         Wheatley finally said, "I told him I could be his father, " immediately throwing up, grabbing his stomach. Wheatley vomited at least six times during the hour and half interview, making contortions with his body, gagging, and appearing to be ill. At no time did Wheatley ask for help, nor did the officers offer him any help or stop the interview for him to calm down and gather himself. Indeed sometimes Detective Violette talked over Wheatley's vomiting. Finally Wheatley reported he told Travis that he was 99.9% sure he is his father.

         Detective Violette moved on to their special relationship, stating "you grew up almost like brothers; there was a fair amount of sexual contact. Travis said started when 6-7 years old in his mom's house. Travis said the last time this occurred was in 2012." Wheatley's response was, "I don't know where this is coming from." Wheatley continued to deny any knowledge of these allegations of Travis. Detective Violette repeated that he is having a hard time believing that Travis made this up. Violette repeated, "My goal is to find out the truth about everything. Everything Travis said appeared to the truthful."

         About halfway through the interview Detective Desjardins entered to emphasize the need for Wheatley to tell the truth. Desjardins commented that obviously Wheatley was very stressed, throwing up when he came clean, and telling Wheatley that the truth about his sexual contact with Travis was the next hurdle he needed to overcome. Wheatley remained silent throughout Detective Desjardins' lecture. Desjardins repeated that Wheatley needed to tell the truth. When Wheatley vomited again, Desjardins left the room. Wheatley remained sullen and anguished throughout most of the interview.

         Violette advised Wheatley, "You are going to tell the truth before you leave this -building." In responding to Violette's repeated questions, Wheatley finally admitted, "The sex was consensual and never was anything forced upon Travis." Violette repeated to Wheatley, "We can't get closure until you get the weight of this off your shoulders. No more secrets." Violette continued to do the talking. Eventually Wheatley asked, "What else did Travis say?" When Violette responded, "The ...

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