Prosecutors say evidence should not be suppressed in Liberty murder case
By Ed Runyan
In a 32-page document, prosecutors in the murder case of Sean Clemens of Liberty defended the work of police officers in the collection of evidence and protection of Clemens’ rights on the day he was arrested.
Clemens, 33, is charged in the April 24, 2017, killing and robbery of his neighbor, Jane Larue Brown, 84, in her Church Hill-Hubbard Road home. If convicted of certain charges, Clemens could get the death penalty.
Police say Clemens loaded Brown’s Cadillac with electronics from her home and later set the Cadillac on fire in a wooded area behind his house and went to work.
Neighbors who called 911 at 5:55 a.m. that day reported hearing a noise and seeing a man running with a dog. Clemens had two dogs.
Trial is scheduled for Oct. 1
Clemens’ attorneys in November asked Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to suppress seemingly all the evidence, including the physical evidence collected by police and Clemens’ admission to police that he committed the crimes.
Police found Brown’s body in her bedroom early April 24 and her burned Cadillac in the nearby wooded area.
While other officers focused on Brown’s residence at 503 Church Hill-Hubbard Road, Liberty Patrolman Peter DeAngelo canvassed the neighborhood to find out what the neighbors saw or heard.
The first place DeAngelo went was the Clemens residence at 420 Church Hill-Hubbard Road. He went into the breezeway, as he’d been directed to use that entrance on previous trips to the home, he said.
DeAngelo rang a doorbell and knocked. While waiting, he observed two red smears on the white, rear breezeway door, which was open. He stepped in that direction to see if someone was in the rear yard but found no one. He concluded that the red marks were fresh blood stains and observed tire tracks in the rear grass, he said.
The officer went back out of the breezeway through the front door and reported what he had seen.
Defense attorneys have argued that DeAngelo’s actions were a warrantless search and that the evidence obtained at Clemens’ house, including items police say were stolen from Brown’s home, cannot be used at trial.
Prosecutors say there is no case law “directly on point in Ohio dealing with a breezeway,” but they cited several cases in which courts have found it OK for officers to enter an enclosed or screened porch without a warrant because no reasonable expectation of privacy would be expected there.
As for Clemens’ admissions being admissible, defense attorneys say Clemens was “severely intoxicated at the time of questioning and could not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily” waive his rights to talk to officers.
But prosecutors say Clemens “denied being under the influence,” “did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” his “speech was coherent” and he “appeared to be of at least average intelligence.”