The attorneys for a teenager accused in the April 2015 killing of University of Kentucky student Jonathan Krueger on Tuesday asked a judge to suppress a 96-minute police video in which investigators pleaded with the defendant to explain the crime.
The video from the afternoon of April 20, 2015, played in Judge Ernesto Scorsone’s court, features Roman Gonzalez Jr.
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Gonzalez, who was 17 at the time of the slaying, told police investigator Reid Bowles that “All I know is I’m probably going to go to jail.”
“I’m trying to think about how much time I’m looking at,” Gonzalez said in the video while slouched in a chair and leaning against a wall.
The video opened with Bowles making one-sided small talk with Gonzalez about how he and his fellow investigator are fathers who are always concerned about children. Both investigators asked Gonzalez about his family life. Gonzalez told them he had been on his own for the past year, estranged from his parents, and in the 10th grade.
During the interview, Bowles said he was going to try to contact Gonzalez’s parents and left the room. Bowles testified Tuesday that he eventually spoke with both Gonzalez’s parents on May 17, 2015, while they were living in Florida. Gonzalez’s parents said they had not spoken to their son in a year and were not entirely aware of his current legal problems, Bowles said.
About 25 minutes into the interview, Bowles read Gonzalez his rights and emphasized that Gonzalez had the right to an attorney. Gonzalez did not explicitly say at that point that he wanted a lawyer, nor did he say he wanted to stop the interrogation.
Bowles implored Gonzalez to describe the actions of Efrain Diaz Jr. and Justin Delone Smith; all three men were in the van that pulled up to Krueger and his friend on the morning of April 17, 2015.
“You’re the perfect guy to blame it on,” Bowles said in the video. “Your friends, they have f----- you by putting the blame on you.”
The video ends with Gonzalez formally requesting a lawyer and agreeing to a search warrant for DNA evidence.
Gonzalez’s lawyer Leslie Smith requested time to prepare a written brief explaining why the video should be withheld from evidence. Scorsone granted her four weeks to do so.
Gonzalez, Diaz and Smith are each charged with murder in Krueger’s killing. All three are also charged with robbery; additionally, Smith is charged with tampering with evidence and evading police.
Krueger, who was a junior at UK and the photo editor for the school’s student newspaper, was walking home down East Maxwell Street with fellow student and friend Aaron Gillette when a van pulled up next to them around 2 a.m. Inside the van were Gonzalez, Diaz, and Smith, each of whom was armed, Bowles said during a hearing in May 2015.
The three men brandished their weapons in an attempt to rob Krueger and Gillette. When both UK students resisted, Krueger was shot multiple times. Diaz and Smith identified Gonzalez as the shooter, Bowles added. Gillette fled after shots were fired.
The university’s student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel, raised $30,201 for the Jonathan Krueger Memorial Scholarship intended for an aspiring photographer.
Gonzalez, Diaz, and Smith each pleaded not guilty in July 2015. Police say all three men have ties to the Almighty Ambrose street gang.
Gonzalez’s bond was set at $1 million; he faces the possibility of a life sentence. Diaz and Smith were denied bail and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Three people have been executed in Kentucky since 1976; the last was Marco Allen Chapman in November 2008.
The trial for Gonzalez, Diaz, and Smith is set to begin on March 6, 2017.
Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso