Hearing held in Hebron murder case

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Kevin Monahan

Trial scheduled for end of October

By EJ Conzola II

Attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense said they were generally pleased with the testimony solicited in a hearing Sept. 7 to determine which – if any – statements accused killer Kevin Monahan made to police can be used in his upcoming trial.

Monahan is accused of fatally shooting 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis of Schuylerville after the SUV in which she was a passenger turned into the driveway of Monahan’s Patterson Hill Road home in Hebron on April 15.

Monahan was charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly fired two shotgun shots at the vehicle, which was reportedly leaving after the driver realized he had gone to the wrong address.

Monahan has pleaded not guilty in the case, which attracted national attention – in part because of several similar incidents that took place across the country in the weeks surrounding the Gillis slaying.

“I’m pleased with the way the defense case went in,” Monahan’s lawyer Arthur Frost said after the three-hour hearing.

Frost called Gillis’s death “tragic” and said his client “is anxious to get this over with one way or another.”

Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said the hearing “went exactly as expected.”

Both sides will make further arguments about whether anything Monahan said to police can be used in his trial through document submissions that are due over the coming weeks. Judge Adam Michelin did not indicate how quickly he would rule on the issue.

The hearing featured testimony from four of the police officers who responded to Monahan’s home after the occupants of the SUV contacted authorities from near the intersection of County Route 30 and Cemetery Road in the adjacent town of Salem, several miles from the scene of the shooting. People in the vehicle said they were unable to get cellphone service until they reached that location because of the largely rural nature of area where the shooting took place.

Each of the officers – Mark Nelson of the Granville Police Department, Jason Nussbaum of the Cambridge-Greenwich Police Department, Sgt. Chris Murray of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and Michael Muise, a technical sergeant with the State Police Special Operations Response Team – recounted what they observed after arriving at Monahan’s house.

Nelson, the first officer on the scene, and Nussbaum, who was among several officers who arrived shortly thereafter, both testified Monahan repeatedly refused police requests to leave his house and meet them partway down the long, looping driveway that leads to his house, which is perched on a hillside overlooking the hamlet of West Hebron.

Police initially went no closer to the house than a curve in the driveway and the conversations with Monahan took place at a distance variously estimated by officers as between 100 and 200 yards.

Both also said Monahan asked several times why police had come to his home. When told they were responding to a noise complaint, Monahan said there were “hunters and dogs in the area all the time,” according to Nelson.

Murray said he was one of two law enforcement officers who subsequently went to the house and spoke to Monahan, who opened the door but remained inside the building. Murray described the exchange as “a calm, civil conversation” that nonetheless again resulted in Monahan’s refusal to leave the house with police.

Monahan was in telephone contact with attorney Kurt Mausert during the conversation with officers, Murray noted.

Muise, whose team used a state police “Bearcat” armored vehicle to approach the house, was part of the team that included a state police negotiator who ultimately convinced Monahan and his wife, Polly Jinx Monahan, to come out of the house and surrender.

Polly Monahan has not been charged in connection with the shooting.

Frost questioned each of the officers about whether they had informed Monahan of his Miranda right to not speak with police or if they were aware of anyone else who had read Monahan his rights. All four said they had not read the Miranda warning to Monahan, nor were they aware of any other officer who did.

During his testimony, Murray acknowledged he had not seen any mention of the Miranda warning in a case file he reviewed before testifying – a notation that is typically included in those files.

Frost would not comment on the testimony following the hearing, saying only “you heard the answers.”

Jordan said it will be up to Michelin if any of the statements made by Monahan were made during a “custodial interrogation” – where the Miranda warning would apply – or if they were made during conversations prior to Monahan being taken into custody.

Frost also questioned whether a dispatcher who spoke with Monahan by telephone through much of the confrontation with police was acting as an “agent of the police.” If so, the Miranda warning requirement would go into effect, but the officers who could hear all or part of Monahan’s conversation with the dispatcher said the discussion focused on getting the suspect to come out of the house and not the circumstances that led to the police presence.

Frost also solicited testimony from all four officers that – except for one inadvertent blast of a siren late in the process – none of the responding police vehicles used their lights and sirens on a dark night – an implication Monahan may have been reluctant to comply with the requests to leave his house because his only knowledge that it was in fact police who were there was what they told him.

Jury selection in the case had initially been scheduled to begin Thursday but was pushed back to allow for hearings on various motions. The trial is currently scheduled to begin at the end of October.