Judge rules mother's statements are admissible Her incriminating comments after leading police to body of baby can be used in trial

February 21, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Taneytown mother's statements to police after she led them to the body of her 4-month-old daughter in August can be used against her, a Carroll County judge said yesterday.

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. ruled that because Lisa E. Ruby, 20, was handcuffed did not mean she was under arrest. Her taped confession and other statements made to state police are admissible as evidence at her trial, which is scheduled next month, he said.

Burns said state police acted properly -- at first handling Ruby's case as a suspected drug overdose before finding the body of Tabitha Leann Meekins -- during their investigation.

Being handcuffed for her safety, as well as for the safety of police, did not constitute an arrest and, therefore, did not taint Ruby's statements, Burns said.

Daniel Shemer, a public defender representing Ruby, argued after two days of testimony last week that his client was the victim of an "invisible arrest."

Shemer said Ruby spent the bulk of about nine hours in handcuffs before she was told she was under arrest for murder.

Prosecutor Tracy A. Gilmore, an assistant state's attorney, argued that state police followed standard procedures, requiring them to handcuff a suspect whenever transporting someone in a patrol cruiser.

According to testimony, Ruby was found walking on Old Taneytown Road at 5: 50 p.m. Aug. 6 after troopers answered a call about a possible drug overdose.

Trooper Christopher Hall said he searched the woman to make sure she was not carrying a weapon and placed her in handcuffs before putting her in his patrol car to return to her home. The trooper said he had responded to a call for a suicidal person.

After Hall met Michael Meekins, Ruby's boyfriend and the child's father, he learned the baby was missing and read a suicide note Ruby had written to Meekins.

The note read, in part: "Tabitha is gone to another home and I am going to a different life. I'm sorry I have nobody now, so I have no desire to live."

At first, according to Hall, Ruby said the baby had choked on a blanket in her crib that morning.

Hall, then in his seventh month as a trooper, said he called the Westminster barracks, asking that more experienced investigators become involved.

Ruby guided police to a site off Gunpowder Road near Foreston Road near Prettyboy Reservoir in northwestern Baltimore County where the baby's body was found.

Ruby did not testify during last week's hearing, but emergency room staff from Carroll County General Hospital told the judge that blood tests performed on Ruby showed she had ingested cold medicine in amounts two to three times greater than normal. The dosage was not toxic.

After doctors had given permission for Ruby to be interviewed, ++ Cpl. Ronald W. Cullison Jr. spoke with her, explained her rights to have a lawyer present for questioning and had her sign a standard form to indicate that she understood her standard Miranda rights.

Cullison testified that Ruby told police she was afraid they would not believe her because her baby's arm had been broken in June when her boyfriend dropped the child, an incident that prompted an investigation by social services officials.

Cullison said that after she was told that an autopsy would reveal what had happened to the baby, Ruby said she had "put a rag in the baby's mouth, that she did it, that she killed her."

Cullison said he made a taped recording of Ruby's statements.

After being discharged from the hospital, Ruby was taken to the state police barracks at Westminster, where she was arrested and charged with murder.

Ruby spent about 30 days undergoing evaluation and treatment at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup before she was returned to Carroll County Detention Center to await trial, which is scheduled for March 3, court records show.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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