Confessions allowed in murder trial police say teen admitted killing tutor

January 10, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Prosecutors will be permitted to use the confessions police say they obtained from a teen-ager charged with murdering his home tutor when the case goes to trial.

In the statements, Alton Romero Young, 16, told investigators about the events leading to the strangulation death of 57-year-old Shirley Mullinix of Dayton in his home on March 25, 1992, police said.

Mr. Young confessed three times to the slaying during the police interviews, according to police testimony at a pre-trial hearing last month.

Howard Circuit Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. said in a recent ruling that Mr. Young freely gave the oral, written and taped statements to police when he was questioned the day after the tutor's body was found.

"The defendant freely invited the police into his apartment," Judge Sybert said in the Dec. 30 ruling. "He never asked them to leave. . . . He freely elects to accompany the police to the headquarters building."

Mr. Young is scheduled to stand trial on charges of first-degree murder and rape on Jan. 20. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Richard Bernhardt, a public defender representing Mr. Young, argued at a hearing on Dec. 17 that his client's statements should not be used against him at the trial. He noted that the statements Mr. Young gave to police before he was formally charged in the murder should be suppressed because he was never given his Miranda warnings.

Statements that Mr. Young made after his arrest also should be withheld because they were not voluntary, Mr. Bernhardt said.

He also argued that Mr. Young was not properly advised of his rights against self-incrimination and to have an attorney present during questioning.

But Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha said that when questioning Mr. Young, investigators did not force him into making any statements at his home or at the police station.

Judge Sybert agreed with the prosecutor, noting that Mr. Young permitted the first interview -- even when the police told him that he may have been the last person to see Mrs. Mullinix.

In addition, the judge noted that the police told Mr. Young that he was free to leave the police station at any time, leading up to the point when he was formally charged.

During police questioning, Mr. Young initially denied that he was involved in the woman's death, said Lee Lachman, a county detective handling the case.

The detective said Mr. Young did not confess to the slaying until investigators presented him with school vouchers that showed Mrs. Mullinix came to his apartment for their regular tutorial session.

In later statements, Mr. Young told police that he did not want to do school work when Mrs. Mullinix arrived because he was high on drugs, Mr. Lachman said.

Mr. Young confessed that he pushed Mrs. Mullinix out of her chair, grabbed his mother's scarf and wrapped it around the tutor's neck during a struggle, the detective said.

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