VERSAILLES — A Woodford County circuit judge must decide whether a jury can hear the recorded police interview of a man accused of shooting his brother in the chest and dragging his body behind a truck.
The defense sought to suppress the recorded audio interview that Vernon Saunders gave to Versailles police when he was arrested May 4 after the killing.
The defense argues that the statement to police is inadmissible because Saunders was intoxicated. The prosecution, citing Kentucky appellate court cases, argues that Saunders' level of impairment doesn't meet the standard for the statement to be thrown out.
Saunders, 57, is charged with murder in the death of Tim Saunders, 51, of Florida. Police said Vernon Saunders shot his brother in the chest, tied the body to a truck and then dragged the body behind the truck about 11⁄2 miles on Ky. 33. Saunders also is charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.
Parallel marks on the road were made from the boots that Tim Saunders wore as his body was dragged, Versailles police detective Keith Ford testified during a three-hour hearing Friday
A citizen reported seeing a body on the side of the road about 6:45 a.m. Police said earlier they think Tim Saunders died between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. May 4.
Police officers who were in contact with Saunders testified that they couldn't detect that he was impaired before or after he was arrested. Ford said he did detect the smell of alcohol on Saunders after five or 10 minutes of the interview.
But Ford said Saunders "was very coherent."
The recorded statement was played in the courtroom during the hearing. Saunders said he shot "an intruder" three times with a handgun.
"He just shows up," Saunders told Ford. "I think he wanted to kill me."
Later, Saunders said, he couldn't lift the body into his truck. "I didn't know what to do with him. I didn't want to call police," Saunders said.
"How come?" Ford asked.
"I was scared," Saunders said.
Later, Ford asked: "Is this person that has gotten shot, is it your brother?"
Saunders: "No, it isn't my brother."
Ford: "Are you certain about that?"
The 40-minute interview ended when Saunders asked for a lawyer. A police officer then drove him to Bluegrass Community Hospital in Versailles, and blood was drawn at 3:15 p.m. Lab test results showed that his blood-alcohol level was .089, just over the legal limit of .08.
When he was logged into the Woodford County jail at 3:34 p.m., a preliminary breath test showed that his blood-alcohol level was .063.
The defense introduced into evidence a video of Saunders buying a six-pack of beer and a large bottle of vodka at a Versailles liquor store.
One Kentucky court ruling stated that a confession should not be excluded "unless the intoxication reaches the state in which one has hallucinations and the truth of what he says becomes strongly suspect." Another ruling said a confession that is otherwise voluntary is not to be excluded unless the accused is intoxicated to the degree of "being unable to understand the meaning of his statements."
In his written response to the defense motion to suppress the statement, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Pat Molloy wrote, "If we accept the confessions of the stupid, there is no good reason not to accept those of the drunk."
Woodford Circuit Judge Paul Isaacs made no ruling but gave attorneys two weeks to prepare written briefs outlining their arguments.