Judge denies motion to suppress evidence in murder case
FRONT ROYAL — Circuit Judge Ronald L. Napier denied a defense motion on Wednesday to suppress evidence in the case involving a local man accused in the March shooting death of his stepfather.
Defense attorneys for David Glynn Hoyle, Jr., 32, filed a motion asking the judge to prohibit evidence of alleged confessions in a trial. Assistant Public Defender Ryan Nuzzo indicated that the evidence in question included statements Hoyle made to police on the night of March 25 at Hoyle’s Grand Avenue home when law enforcement responded to the shooting of 58-year-old Warren Howard Ramsey, as well as statements Hoyle made to police during an interview after the incident.
Officers with the Front Royal Police Department testified on Wednesday abput the steps they took in handling the case. Sgt. Eric Suess testified that when he responded to the residence, he heard crying and commotion, and once he entered he saw a man on the floor with several gunshot wounds to the chest and a gun on the floor with its magazine emptied. Suess added that Hoyle was sitting in the living room area, and that Hoyle and his mother were asked to exit the room so that medical responders could get to Ramsey. Hoyle was taken to the porch, where Officer Tyler Smith asked Hoyle about the circumstances of the situation.
Smith testified that Hoyle was distraught and in a state of shock when speaking with him. When Smith began asking Hoyle what had happened, Hoyle responded by saying he “couldn’t take it anymore” and “didn’t want to do it,” Smith said. Smith added he asked Hoyle if he shot the victim, and Hoyle nodded his head before placing his head and his hands and answering “yes.” Hoyle was then read his Miranda rights — which Smith said Hoyle indicated he understood–and taken into custody.
Detective Landon Waller testified that he interviewed Hoyle at the investigation office, and that Hoyle was visibly upset. Waller said that Hoyle’s speech was low in volume and difficult to understand at multiple times throughout the interview. Waller said he did not hear Hoyle ask for an attorney at the time of the interview until the third time, and did not hear the requests until he reviewed the video and transcript of the interview. Waller noted that he heard Hoyle ask for at attorney when collecting evidence for the gunshot residue kit, which Hoyle agreed to before his request for an attorney was audible.
Nuzzo argued that Waller violated Hoyle’s right not to be asked questions after they have asked for an attorney. Waller asked Hoyle if he had washed his hands since firing the gun. Nuzzo argued that Hoyle was under the impression that he was being taken into custody as soon as officers entered the home with guns drawn and Hoyle immediately put his hands in the air. Nuzzo added that the questioning on the scene involved his client being in custody without being Mirandized, and that was a violation of Hoyle’s constitutional rights.
Additionally, Nuzzo argued that Hoyle clearly said he did not understand his Miranda rights before mumbling that he did after being asked multiple times about them, and that all the statements given were non-voluntary. Hoyle invoked his right to an attorney in that interview, Nuzzo argued, and all questioning should have ceased at that point.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond argued that the officers asking what happened on the porch was simply an assessment of the situation while securing the scene, and that Hoyle voluntarily responded that that he didn’t mean to do it. The questioning at the scene was not a violation because Hoyle had not yet been taken into custody, Hammond argued, and Hoyle indicated he understood his Miranda rights when he was handcuffed and taken into custody. Hammond noted that Hoyle’s request for an attorney was not made clearly and audibly, so the detective was not at fault for being unable to hear the request.
Hammond also described the officers at the scene as “extremely kind, gentle, patient” with Hoyle in the way that they handled the case.
Napier indicated at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing that he had spent four hours reviewing the police body cam footage and the interview footage prior to the hearing. After hearing the argument in the case, Napier said he had some skepticism of what he was going to see because of the defense’s motion, but that he ultimately saw nothing improper about the way the officers involved handled the case. Napier then denied the motion.
A hearing was set for Jan. 3 in Warren County Circuit Court to determine a trial date. Hoyle remains in custody at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.