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People v. Eyler

OPINION FILED APRIL 26, 1985.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

LARRY W. EYLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. William Block, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE UNVERZAGT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

We are required in this cause to determine whether the circuit court of Lake County properly applied the precepts of the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States in holding that Larry W. Eyler, the defendant, was illegally detained at the time he and his motor vehicle were searched and he made statements and, therefore, whether the circuit court was correct in suppressing the evidence emanating from that detention and search.

The defendant was charged in a three-count indictment with the August 31, 1983, murder of Ralph Calise in Lake County, Illinois. The defendant pleaded not guilty and filed nine pretrial suppression motions. The circuit court granted five of the motions. The State filed a certificate of impairment pursuant to People v. Young (1980), 82 Ill.2d 234, and then brought this appeal under the authority of Supreme Court Rule 604(a) (87 Ill.2d R. 604(a)), contending that the circuit court erred in suppressing the evidence.

The key to all of the suppression motions was the warrantless search and seizure conducted by the Indiana State Police at a point on Interstate Highway 65 near Lowell, Indiana, on September 30, 1983. The defendant was traveling south on Interstate Highway 65 in northern Indiana when he was stopped by an Indiana State trooper for a traffic violation. The initial stop extended to a 12-hour station house detention of the defendant regarding his involvement with homosexual murders in Indiana. The defendant's truck and a bag inside the truck were searched, and the defendant's boots were seized.

After a lengthy evidentiary hearing, the circuit court ruled that although the initial traffic stop of the defendant in Indiana on September 30, 1983, was proper, the 12-hour detention of the defendant was not supported by probable cause. The circuit court found that the defendant's statement and consent to search his vehicle were voluntary, that both were tainted by his illegal seizure, and that the resulting evidence must be suppressed.

The facts are not in dispute, and we will summarize them as they were revealed at the suppression hearing.

Close to 7 a.m. on September 30, 1983, Indiana State Trooper Kenneth Buehrle was patrolling northbound in an unmarked squad car on Interstate Highway 65 in the northwestern part of Indiana. He observed two men emerging from the ditch on the southbound side of the interstate. One of the men carried a bag. A silver pickup truck was parked on the shoulder of the road about 15 yards south of the men. Parking along the interstate was prohibited.

Buehrle crossed the median and entered the southbound lanes. Since the pickup truck was driving away, the trooper activated the car's red lights and stopped the truck. As Buehrle approached the truck, he noticed the vent window on the passenger side was missing.

The trooper advised the driver, who was the defendant, of his reason for stopping the vehicle. Buehrle asked for the defendant's driver's license and for the truck's registration. He also asked the passenger, Darl Hayward, for identification. When Buehrle asked what they were doing in the ditch, the defendant explained that he was going to the bathroom. Buehrle asked Hayward about the bag he was carrying and Hayward said it contained toilet paper. The trooper asked if he could look inside the bag. Buehrle observed that the bag contained personal items but no toilet paper. Hayward said they used all of the paper. Buehrle knew that the nearest restroom facilities were six miles south and two miles north.

The defendant produced an Indiana driver's license and proper truck registration. Hayward had identification as well. Buehrle asked the defendant to accompany him to the squad car in order to check on the license. While the defendant sat on the passenger side of the squad car, Buehrle called on the radio for a warrant check on the defendant and Hayward. Buehrle wrote a warning ticket for illegal parking on the interstate. The dispatcher requested Buehrle's location in code, which indicated to Buehrle that there was some sort of problem. However, he did not know what the trouble was.

Sergeant Peter Popplewell was at the Lowell police post when Buehrle called the dispatcher. The dispatcher told Popplewell that he believed the defendant was the suspect listed on the information sheet regarding certain murders and that the truck's description was the same. Popplewell then drove to where Buehrle was located. En route he received information that the defendant was a suspect in certain murders and that the defendant and Hayward should be brought in for interrogation and the truck impounded.

Popplewell arrived at Buehrle's location and showed Buehrle the information sheet. They were joined by Sergeant William Cothran, also of the Indiana State Police. Popplewell told Buehrle that he was bringing the defendant and Hayward in for questioning and impounding the truck. The defendant was then removed from Buehrle's squad car, placed in the straddle position, and patted down for weapons. The defendant was handcuffed and locked in Buehrle's car. The seat belt was also secured around him.

Hayward, who was still sitting in the defendant's truck with the engine running, was also patted down and handcuffed. He was placed in Popplewell's squad car. Cothran looked in the truck's interior to see if there were any weapons when Hayward was removed.

Buehrle said the bag Hayward showed him was not the same bag he saw the men carry from the ditch. Cothran then returned to the truck and searched the interior. He removed a second bag, lighter in color than the one Buehrle examined, from under the seat. The bag contained various lengths of rope and white tape. Cothran returned the bag to the truck.

The defendant was then transferred to Cothran's car. Before he was removed from Buehrle's squad car, Buehrle read him the Miranda warnings.

Buehrle drove to the area, where he first saw the defendant and Hayward. He was joined there by another trooper. They conducted a 10-minute search. While the ground covering indicated that people had walked in the area, no toilet paper was found.

Cothran, who was taking the defendant to the Lowell police post, stopped at the location where Buehrle was searching. He asked that defendant what he was doing under the bridge and how the defendant got down there. The defendant said he "took a crap" and indicated the location. Buehrle was apparently searching in the wrong area. Cothran informed Buehrle of this, but a further search revealed nothing.

Cothran then drove the defendant to the Lowell police post and Buehrle followed in his car. They arrived at about 7:30 a.m. The defendant's belt and boots were removed and he was asked to empty his pockets. The handcuffs were removed, and he was placed in a holding cell.

During the time the defendant was in Cothran's car, Hayward was secured in Popplewell's car. Popplewell was waiting for the tow truck at the initial detention site. He asked Hayward for identification. Hayward asked what was going on, and Popplewell advised him that the defendant was a suspect in some homosexual killings. Popplewell told Hayward that he was a possible accomplice. Hayward said that he had just met the defendant and knew nothing of any killings. Popplewell interrupted Hayward to read to him the Miranda warnings and repeated his earlier comments. Hayward indicated that he was willing to tell Popplewell anything he knew.

Hayward told Popplewell that he was hitchhiking from Chicago to Indianapolis when the defendant picked him up. While they drove from Illinois to Indiana, the defendant repeatedly offered Hayward $100 if Hayward would allow the defendant to tie up Hayward for sexual purposes. Hayward refused. He said that the defendant made the offer while in Indiana.

The defendant and Hayward stopped along Interstate 65 because the defendant wanted to go to the bathroom. The defendant repeated his offer near the ditch and displayed a $100 bill. Hayward again refused. The defendant asked Hayward to pull up his shirt and Hayward complied. The defendant said Hayward "looked great." Hayward admitted to Popplewell that he was a homosexual.

The conversation with Hayward lasted about 20-25 minutes. The tow truck arrived and the defendant's pickup truck was transported to the Lowell police post, where it was secured with tape. Popplewell drove Hayward to the police post, where Hayward made a second tape-recorded statement and gave a written statement.

The Indiana State Police testified that the defendant was not under arrest. However, the defendant testified he believed he was under arrest. The defendant stated that although he repeatedly asked the officers at the initial stop what was happening, he was not told anything. Later, at the Lowell police post, the defendant was told he was a suspect in a "major felony case." Still later he was told that he was being held for questioning with regard to homosexual murders. When he asked if he would be allowed to leave, the defendant was told that he could be held for "pandering, prostitution."

It was stipulated that the law in Indiana at the time made it a crime to patronize a prostitute.

While the defendant was at the Lowell police post, three officers from the Central Indiana Multi-Agency Investigative Team (task force) arrived from Indianapolis to question the defendant. The task force was formed to review eight murder cases in the central Indiana area and to assist surrounding counties in murder investigations. It was assisting in the investigation of three murders in Lake County, Illinois, as well. The defendant was a suspect in certain homosexual murders because of a telephone call received from someone who knew the defendant and other information gathered in investigating that call. However, there was no warrant for the defendant's arrest, and a task force ...


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