Defense says Pasco murder case should be thrown out

A Pasco police detective made copies of three phone calls placed by a jailed murder suspect after getting a tip that Kurtis Robert Chapman may have talked about another person being involved, court documents reveal.

After listening to a conversation between Chapman and his lawyer Matt Rutt, Detective William Parramore took the recording discs back to the station and played it while nine other officers were in the squad room, according to Parramore's notes.

Rutt says what Parramore did was a "flagrant violation" of Chapman's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights because he should have known instantly that the conversation was protected by the attorney/client relationship.

The recordings have been destroyed and Parramore ordered not to discuss what he heard, but the damage is done and now the 5-week-old case against Chapman should be dismissed, Rutt argued in a motion filed in Franklin County Superior Court.

Chapman, 22, is accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend, Shenay Greenough, and killing her unborn baby, Kyana Shenay. His trial is set for Oct. 20.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has been appointed as a special prosecutor to review the claims and complete a report for Rutt. Miller was to interview Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe on Thursday.

The defense motion asks Judge Carrie Runge to either toss out the charges of second-degree murder and first-degree man-slaughter, or to disqualify the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office from handling the case and all officers who heard the tapes from testifying.

The motion will be argued Aug. 10.

"Detective William Parramore heard nothing by accident, but rather purposefully sat down and reviewed a conversation between (Rutt) and his client that was identified from its inception as a privileged attorney client communication," the motion says. "While the duplicate recording has been destroyed, there is no evidence any notes taken by the detective met a similar fate, or that Steve Lowe was not provided with those notes."

Greenough, 19, was found dead May 10 under the Pasco home of Chapman's father. She was more than 30 weeks pregnant, in addition to having a nearly 2-year-old son. Ayden.

Chapman is not the father of either child.

Greenough was last seen May 8 and was reported missing by her mother. The teen reportedly had sent text messages to a friend saying she was fighting with Chapman over their breakup.

A couple of hours later, Chapman dropped by a home where he earlier had been with Greenough and admitted to a friend what he had just done, court documents said. Documents include his claim that he was just trying to put his former girlfriend to sleep.

He was arrested three days later in Pendleton.

Rutt wrote in his motion to dismiss that Chapman called him from the jail May 21 to discuss "which experts might be called to testify at trial, what defenses might be used concerning the charges against him, and other trial strategies that might be pursued."

Rutt said he always answers his business cell phone with: "Hello, Matthew Rutt, attorney at law, speaking." That conversation was recorded, like all other telephone calls into and out of the jail.

Rutt included "supplement notes" from Parramore in his motion to dismiss. In those notes, Parramore said a supervisor passed on a tip from a Franklin County corrections officer that Chapman had been overheard "on the phone talking about deleting a name from a phone, and the person may be involved with the murder of Shenay Greenough."

The conversation was believed to have occurred at 2:20 p.m., so Parramore said he went to the jail and searched the computer database for all calls from Chapman between 2 and 3 p.m. He found three calls -- to Rutt, Chapman's father and Chapman's girlfriend, who he reportedly started dating about a week before Greenough's death.

"Of the three conversations we listened too [sic] there was no evidence to corroborate the initial information given to me by (the corrections officer)," Parramore wrote.

Parramore then returned to the police department and played the recordings on a computer. Seven officers and two sergeants were present, he said.

Once Sgt. Mike Monroe heard it, he asked who was on the tape and, upon learning it was Chapman talking to Rutt, "advised me he didn't think I was supposed to listen to that conversation," Parramore said.

Parramore "immediately contacted" Prosecutor Steve Lowe, who said he didn't want to hear details of what the detective had learned and told him to destroy the copy of the recording. Lowe also told Parramore to tell the other officers in the room not to discuss it, which he passed on to Sgt. Brent Cook to relay to those involved.

"Since destroying that disc I have not discussed with anyone the information I heard during the conversation between attorney Rutt and Kurtis Chapman," Parramore wrote in his notes. "I also have not conducted any further investigation on this case since hearing that conversation."

But Rutt says in his motion that doesn't cut it.

"The information already disseminated to other parties in this case through the odious eavesdropping by jail employees and experienced law enforcement officers (of) privileged communications cannot be retracted. This is not a 'bell that can be unrung,' " he wrote.

Rutt also argues that law enforcement "mismanaged the case to the point of negligence by the actions of their detectives and potential witnesses in this case. Detective Parramore either was not advised of the importance of attorney-client communications or was specifically told to disregard them."

Chapman can in no way have a fair trial now "when the very essence of his defense has been shared or been spread far and wide," Rutt said. "Witnesses now have months to tailor their testimony to respond to these defenses, and the state likewise has ample time to prepare its case in response to defense strategies."

Pasco Chief Denis Austin told the Herald last month that his department would "certainly look into the matter to determine what the circumstances were -- if it were an honest mistake, or if there were any intention."

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com