By Alan Sorensen
The motion to postpone Reid Danell's murder trial scheduled for May 22 was denied in writing by 12th Judicial District Court Judge John Warner this morning.
Warner denied the motion that was filed on May 5 by Danell's Havre lawyer Robert M. Peterson. Peterson contended in his petition that two anonymous Crimestoppers tips just three days after Kristi Walker, 30, and Kevin Caplette, 35, were found shot to death at a home in the 1200 block of Sixth Street shortly before 1 p.m. on Sept. 16 would benefit his client's case.
Danell, Jacob Gary Spang, 18, and his sister, Francine Spang, 16, are each charged with two counts of deliberate homicide by application of the felony murder rule, two counts of intimidation by accountability, one count of tampering with evidence, and car theft. Danell is accused of pulling the trigger on both victims.
Peterson claimed in his petition that information called into Havre Crimestoppers on Sept. 19 and 20, 1999, indicated that drug sales and collections were involved in the murders. Peterson noted in his petition on Danell's behalf that he was scheduled to conduct depositions of "various task force members" regarding what they may have known about the drug connections with the case.
Peterson said he also wanted time to get information about and statements from people from the state of Washington "who are known to be or suspected to be involved in the distribution of illegal drugs in Havre."
Peterson said that he hoped, given more time, to discover more evidence "which could lead to the lesser crime of mitigated homicide." He contended that the charge of deliberate homicide against his client might be lowered to mitigated homicide or even negligent homicide if it turned out that Danell was ordered by drug dealers to kill Walker and Caplette.
In written opposition to the petition, Deputy Hill County Attorney Aileen Miller wrote: "Even if the defendant was ordered to execute Kristi and Kevin, this does not excuse his murder of them. In fact, executing people on command only serves to prove the cold-blooded nature in which these homicides occurred."
Judge Warner based his decision on the written arguments and oral arguments presented in District Court Wednesday afternoon.
Warner ruled that the defense has had nearly seven months since Danell was charged to build its defense of a murder committed eight months ago.
The trial for Jacob Spang, 18, is set for June 5, and Francine Spang, 16, is scheduled for trial on June 19.