The Richmond Register

December 27, 2012

Defense challenges detective’s tactics in murder probe

Attorney wants defendant’s statements in Singleton case excluded from trial

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — The defense attorney for the woman accused of Angela Frazier-Singleton’s murder questioned a police detective’s interview tactics Thursday morning during the second round of evidence-suppression hearings in the case.

However, it will be several weeks before Madison Circuit Court Judge William G. Clouse rules on whether all or some of Christina Marcum’s statements to police should be excluded at the March 11 trial.

Marcum, 29, and Jason Singleton, 36, are accused of beating and strangling Frazier-Singleton to death in January 2011. The Singletons had been married for only about a month.

Frazier-Singleton’s dismembered body was found in trash bags on Jan. 19, 2011, on Tattler Branch Road in the Valley View community.

Earlier this month, an evidence-suppression hearing was conducted about the legality of a search warrant used to gather evidence from Singleton’s home.

Clouse ruled at the end of the first hearing that Singleton’s rights were not violated in that search, and the Kentucky State Police did not intentionally mislead or provide false information in the affidavit used to obtain a search warrant.

Thursday’s hearing

KSP Detective Brian Reeder testified for about an hour and a half Thursday morning about three interviews he had with Christina Marcum while he investigated Frazier-Singleton’s death.

The first interview with Marcum occurred a day after Singleton was arrested and charged with murder. During that interview, Marcum told KSP detectives that Singleton had “strangled Angela on Tuesday (Jan. 18),” according to the search warrant affidavit for Singleton’s home.

Reeder said because it was so early in the investigation, police did not know if Marcum was a suspect, witness or potential victim. He did know Marcum and Singleton were close and had previously dated, Reeder testified.

“That point in time we didn’t know what her involvement was, if any,” Reeder said.

Marcum was not in custody during that interview and was free to leave at any time, Reeder testified. She talked on her cell phone, and also later brought a friend into the room, Reeder added.

Although she wasn’t in custody, Reeder said “to be on the safe side” he had advised the woman of her rights at the beginning of the interview.

The second encounter between the detective and Marcum occurred Feb. 10, 2011. Reeder contacted her attorney to notify him that a search warrant had been obtained to get a saliva sample, also known as a buccal swab, from Marcum.

Marcum met Reeder at KSP Post 7 and the swab took less than a minute, according to Reeder.

However, Marcum spoke to the detective for 36 minutes about the case. Reeder had a digital recorder in his pocket at the time.

“You never know when you bring someone in what they’ll say,” Reeder said when Marcum’s attorney, Theodore Shouse, asked why he recorded the encounter.

Reeder admitted he did not explicitly tell Marcum she was being recorded then but said he had previously told her he often recorded interviews during investigations.

Finally, on April 8, 2011, Reeder spoke to Marcum again at the Fayette County Detention Center. Marcum had been charged with intimidating a witness in the case against Jason Singleton, and she was turning herself in, Reeder said.

Reeder said he did not question Marcum about the murder case, but she made statements about it which were again recorded by the digital recorder in his pocket.

“Did she volunteer what’s on that recording?” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith asked.

“Yes, she did,” Reeder responded.

Marcum was charged with Frazier-Singleton’s murder in December 2011 after she was indicted by a Madison County grand jury.

Questioning the detective

During his cross-examination of the detective, Shouse read several statements made by Marcum from the first interview’s transcript in which she stated she was uncomfortable answering certain questions without an attorney present.

In the first interview, the transcript indicated Marcum said “I don’t want to answer anything else without an attorney present.”

However, Shouse pointed out the troopers continued the interview. Reeder responded that although Marcum made that statement, “she goes on and keeps talking.”

When asked why, after Marcum was swabbed in February, the conversation with her continued for more than 30 minutes, Reeder said it was “because she continued to talk to me.”

Shouse questioned Reeder about the techniques he used in the interviews, stating he may have used a method called the “Reid technique” that constantly redirects the interviewee back to the questions the officer wants answered. The technique has been criticized, according to several media reports, with some criminal justice experts claiming it elicits false confessions.

Reeder said he didn’t consider any encounter he had with Marcum an “interrogation.” He also repeatedly said he made no threats or promises to her.

“A lot of times she’s the one that says things, and I just sit there,” he said.

Reeder was the only witness called to testify at the hearing.

After the detective’s testimony, Shouse asked the judge for 10 days to file a written argument in favor of suppressing Marcum’s statements made during the interviews with Reeder. Smith asked for 10 days after the document is filed to respond.

Clouse granted both requests.

Singleton’s attorneys, Jim Baechtold and Michael Eubanks, also talked to Clouse about their motion to try the two defendants separately. Clouse said he would consider the issue closer to the trial date.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.