PASCO — The murder and manslaughter case of a man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend will move forward, Judge Craig Matheson ruled Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court.
"God answered our prayers," said Christina Sullivan, the mother of the victim, after the ruling.
Defense attorney Matthew Rutt had asked that charges against his client, Kurtis Robert Chapman, be dropped after two Pasco police detectives listened to a recorded jail conversation between Rutt and his client.
Chapman is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend Shenay Greenough, 19, of West Richland, who was more than 30 weeks pregnant with another man's child. Her body was found May 10 under the home of Chapman's father.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Matheson said dismissing the case was not warranted, but he is excluding the two police detectives and the recording from the trial. The detectives also will not be allowed to help the prosecution with preparation of the case.
The judge said he could decide to exclude more witnesses or evidence from the case after listening to proposals from the defense.
Matheson set the trial for March 9, even though Chapman wanted to keep the original trial date in February.
"I'm ready for trial," he told the judge as the judge and attorneys discussed possible trial dates.
However, Chapman earlier had agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial until March 16 to allow his attorney to bring the motion to dismiss.
The defense requested the trial date be moved back after attorney Bob Thompson joined the case as co-counsel. Rutt said he had delayed work on the case until he learned whether it would be dismissed. In addition, new Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant needs to get up to speed on the case.
Sullivan said after the hearing that she worried for six months that the case would be dismissed.
"The relief is just amazing," she said. "I feel like a mountain is off me."
Rutt had argued that Chapman's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when Pasco police detective William Parramore listened into a recording of a call between Rutt and his client.
Parramore, who interviewed Chapman in Pendleton when he was arrested, went to the jail after getting a call that evidence on a cell phone might have been deleted, which could constitute obstruction of justice. Another detective went with him to learn the jailhouse procedure.
Rutt accused Parramore of making a recording of the jail conversation and loudly playing it when other officers could hear it during a shift change at the police station.
Matheson said Parramore, who he did not name, listened to the recording in good faith as part of an investigation, although he was not justified in copying and playing it. The recording started with a recorded jail message that the call was being recorded and monitored, leading the officer to conclude he could listen to it, the judge said.
"The communication was not intercepted secretly," Matheson said.
When Parramore told former Prosecutor Steve Lowe about the recording, Lowe did not listen to it and notified the defense, the judge said.
The entire process was not tainted, Matheson said. Although the judge also did not listen to the recording, information about who witnesses are and the defense strategy would be revealed at trial, Matheson said.
Rutt said after the hearing that during the jail phone call, he and Chapman spent more than 10 minutes discussing possible defense strategies and witnesses.
"As a result of this, I had to change tactics," Rutt said.
The prosecution has 44 witnesses on its list for the case, with possibly about 30 of them being law enforcement officers, Rutt said. They include officers Rutt believes were at the crime scene after the body was discovered and also heard the recording played in the squad room, he said.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller, who was appointed as a special prosecutor to review the violation, said earlier that Parramore heard Chapman essentially confess during the murder when he was arrested, but that Pasco police Capt. Jim Raymond also was at the interview and could testify about the confession.
"What's important for us is keeping the case alive," Sant said after the hearing. He believes the probability is low that other officers will be excluded from the trial, he said.
Matheson will hear arguments Jan. 25 about any other witnesses the defense wants excluded because they heard information discussed in the taped phone call.
w Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org.