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Motion to suppress filed in Scuttle Inn burglary case

  • Kenneth R. Miller, Jr., 35, of Percy.

    Kenneth R. Miller, Jr., 35, of Percy.
    RCSO Photo

By Pete Spitler
updated: 5/12/2017 9:45 AM

Kenneth Miller Jr.'s attorney, Thomas Mansfield, is alleging his client was suffering from sleep deprivation when he was interviewed twice by Randolph County Sheriff's Office personnel in connection to a house fire and burglary on the morning of Jan. 31.

In a two-page motion to suppress, filed May 5, Mansfield alleges that statements Miller made during interrogation, when he allegedly confessed to the crimes, were not voluntary and that his client did not understand his Miranda rights when he waived them.

Mansfield claimed that Miller - who has been out on bond since Feb. 24 - was arrested during the early-morning hours of Jan. 31 and "was subsequently subjected to interrogation by the Randolph County Sheriff's Department at approximately 11:57 a.m. on January 31, 2017 and at approximately 9:02 a.m. on February 1, 2017."

"Based upon the circumstances surrounding the taking of the two statements and based upon the physical and mental condition of the Defendant at the time of the statements, Defendant Kenneth R. Miller, Jr., respectfully submits that the statements here at issue were not voluntary and were not the result of Defendant's knowing exercise of free will," Mansfield wrote in his motion, while not specifying the "physical and mental condition" of his client.

"Defendant was given his Miranda Rights in a cursory manner prior to the taking of each of these statements, but there was no explanation of the Miranda Warnings and it is clear from Defendant's actions and statements that he did not understand the true meaning of the rights he was being asked to waive."

Merriam-Webster defines the term "cursory" as "rapidly or often superficially performed or produced."

Miller, 35, is facing charges of arson, burglary and aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer after a string of events that started with a Jan. 30 drug search at Miller's residence at 1005 Green Street, just outside Steeleville village limits.

A news release from the sheriff's office - distributed to local media on Jan. 31 - and statements by Steeleville Fire Chief Rich Reitz established a timeline leading up to Miller's arrest.

"We did locate some illegal drugs in the house," said Randolph County Sheriff Shannon Wolff in previous statements to the Herald Tribune.

At 4:41 a.m. on Jan. 31, Miller's house was reported to be on fire by a Village of Steeleville employee and SFD firefighter who had happened to be driving by.

Law enforcement attending the fire later recognized Miller in his car, a 2003 Mitsubishi, as he drove past the scene.

Officers then attempted to stop Miller at 5:11 a.m., but he allegedly fled. Thirty-five minutes later, sheriff's deputies responded to a burglar alarm at the Pyramid Oaks Golf Course in Percy, where a cash register and other items were taken from the Scuttle Inn Lounge.

Sources at the golf course told the Herald Tribune that the perpetrator gained entry and exit by breaking two windows next to the pro shop.

Slightly more than three hours later, at 8:52 a.m., Miller called 911 to report he was the victim of a battery, the circumstances of which have not yet been released. Law enforcement then located Miller and his vehicle, with police allegedly recovering evidence of the burglary.

An exact time of Miller's arrest was not immediately available, but Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker was asked how he would define the phrase "early-morning hours."

"Generally speaking, anywhere from midnight to five in the morning would be my definition of it," he said.

In his motion, Mansfield claims his client had not slept in the roughly day-and-a-half prior to his first interview with law enforcement.

"Prior to the first interrogation, which began at approximately 11:57 a.m. on January 31, 2017, Defendant had not slept during the evening of January 30, 2017 and the morning of January 31, 2017, and therefore was sleep deprived when he was subject to this interrogation," Mansfield wrote.

Mansfield concluded the motion by claiming Miller's statements "were not knowingly and voluntarily given by the Defendant and because said statements were the result of Miranda violations."

Mansfield and Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker were back in Randolph County court on May 5 to give an update on the case to Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Brown.

Walker told Brown that he had received the state fire marshal's report, dated March 16, on the house fire and had tendered it to the defense.

The case was continued to another hearing on Tuesday, June 13 at 9:30 a.m.