150 F.3d 339 (4th Cir. 1998), 96-4669, United States v. Van Metre

Docket Nº:96-4669, 96-4670.
Citation:150 F.3d 339
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James Howard VAN METRE, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James Howard VAN METRE, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 10, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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150 F.3d 339 (4th Cir. 1998)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


James Howard VAN METRE, Defendant-Appellant.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


James Howard VAN METRE, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 96-4669, 96-4670.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

July 10, 1998

Argued March 2, 1998.

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ARGUED: Kimberly Dunn Spelman, Gregg Lewis Bernstein, Martin, Junghans, Snyder & Bernstein, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Carmina Szunyog Hughes, Assistant United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Lynne A. Battaglia, United States Attorney, Andrew G.W. Norman, Assistant United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, and WILLIAMS and MICHAEL, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded by published opinion. Judge WILLIAMS wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge WILKINSON and Judge MICHAEL joined.

WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge:

A federal jury found James Howard Van Metre guilty of kidnapping Holly Ann Blake in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 1201(a)(1) (West 1984), and Van Metre pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 373 (West Supp.1997). At his sentencing hearing, the district court imposed a life sentence upon Van Metre for the Blake kidnapping and twenty years for solicitation. Van Metre now appeals his kidnapping conviction and both of his sentences. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm Van Metre's conviction and his kidnapping sentence. We vacate, however, his sentence for solicitation and remand to the district court for resentencing consistent with this opinion.


In September of 1991, Van Metre began frequenting Spangler's Diner in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While there, he met Blake, a waitress at the diner, and eventually asked her out on a date. On September 26, eye witnesses reported that Van Metre entered the parking lot of Distelfink's Drive-In Restaurant, which is located about 1/4 mile from Spangler's, and began talking to Blake, who was waxing her car in the lot. The witnesses further related that Blake appeared to voluntarily get into Van Metre's car and that the couple then drove away.

According to Van Metre's subsequent confessions, the following tragedy occurred soon thereafter. After driving around for awhile, the couple drove to a farm that Van Metre's brother was renting in Carroll County, Maryland, a short distance from the Pennsylvania state line. Upon arrival at the farm, Van Metre and Blake exited the automobile and, according to Van Metre, began engaging in consensual sexual foreplay. At some point, however, Blake made a derogatory comment regarding Van Metre's anatomy. As a result,

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he went into a rage and strangled her to death. Van Metre admitted that it took several minutes to kill Blake and that she struggled for her life. After killing Blake, Van Metre returned to his automobile where he discovered some of Blake's belongings. Van Metre left the scene, but returned after dark at which time he started a large fire and burned Blake's body and her belongings. The next morning, he disposed of her ashes along a nearby river bank. When Blake failed to return home the night of September 26, her ex-husband called the Pennsylvania State Police to report her missing. The police discovered Blake's car at Distelfink's the next morning. As a result of witness interviews, the police learned that Blake had last been seen in the company of Van Metre.

Following routine procedure, Pennsylvania Trooper Theodore Kotula discovered that there was a valid Pennsylvania state civil bench warrant for contempt of court outstanding against Van Metre arising out of his purported violation of a Protection from Abuse order in favor of his wife. Five days later, on October 2, 1991, Kotula learned that Van Metre might be staying at the Gateway Motel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Kotula immediately notified Sergeant Mark Rawlston of the Chattanooga Police Department that Van Metre, a suspect in the disappearance of Blake and in the kidnapping and rape of another Pennsylvania woman, Mary Yohe, was in Chattanooga. 1 Kotula requested that the Chattanooga authorities arrest Van Metre pursuant to the outstanding Pennsylvania warrant. 2 In response to Kotula's request, Rawlston set up surveillance at the Gateway Motel. After verifying Van Metre's presence at the motel, Rawlston, assisted by a SWAT team, entered Van Metre's room and arrested him at approximately 11:00 p.m. on the night of October 2, 1991. The Chattanooga authorities recovered a single marijuana cigarette in Van Metre's room. Van Metre was transported to the Chattanooga Police Department.

At approximately 2:45 a.m., Van Metre arrived at Rawlston's office where he was read his Miranda rights and signed a waiver-of-rights form. Rawlston then proceeded to question Van Metre about the disappearance of Blake and the assault of Yohe. Van Metre responded that he and Blake had driven around together at an undisclosed time for several hours in his car. He stated, however, that he let Blake out of his car at the Sheets Motel in southern Pennsylvania and that he had not seen her again. Van Metre denied any knowledge of Yohe. At approximately 3:00 a.m., Van Metre was transported to the Chattanooga City Jail where he was booked as a fugitive from the State of Pennsylvania. He was also charged with simple possession of marijuana and failure to appear on the traffic violations. At approximately 5:00 p.m. on October 3, Van Metre signed a waiver-of-extradition form.

Kotula and Corporal Lester Freehling of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Pennsylvania State Police arrived in Chattanooga later that night. The next morning, October 4, they obtained and executed a search warrant of Van Metre's automobile. Finally, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Kotula and Freehling met with Van Metre. After being advised of his rights, Van Metre signed another waiver-of-rights form. Upon questioning by the Pennsylvania authorities, Van Metre initially denied any knowledge of the Blake or Yohe incident. After several hours, however, Van Metre confessed to Freehling that he was guilty of the rape of Yohe and the murder of Blake. Before each statement,

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Van Metre was again read his Miranda rights, and he waived them each time. These statements were initially tape-recorded and then reduced to writing.

After obtaining these confessions, Van Metre was taken to the Chattanooga City Court on October 5, 1991, where he again waived extradition to Pennsylvania. That night, Kotula and Freehling began transporting Van Metre back to Pennsylvania. The next morning, October 6, while en route to Pennsylvania, Van Metre directed Kotula and Freehling to the Blake murder scene in Carroll County, Maryland. At that point, the Maryland authorities took over the investigation. Van Metre walked through the murder scene with the Pennsylvania and Maryland police during which time they recovered numerous pieces of evidence, including Blake's car keys, two knives, and a set of handcuff keys.

The next day, October 7, Van Metre was arraigned on the Yohe charges before a Pennsylvania magistrate. Later that evening, Van Metre again waived his rights and gave a taped confession to the Blake murder to Pennsylvania Trooper First Class Wehland. The confession was reduced to writing and reviewed by Van Metre. Van Metre agreed that he had no additions or corrections, but requested the presence of his attorney before he signed it. At that point, the interview ceased.

On April 16, 1993, a jury in the Circuit Court of Carroll County, Maryland, convicted Van Metre of the first degree murder of Holly Ann Blake. Van Metre was sentenced to life in prison without parole. On appeal, however, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals vacated Van Metre's conviction, holding that the state had failed to bring him to trial within the period required by Maryland Rule 4-271, Maryland's state law equivalent of the Speedy Trial Act. See Van Metre v. State, 100 Md.App. 809 (1994) (unpublished). In November of 1994, Van Metre was convicted of the kidnapping and rape of Mary Yohe in the Court of Common Pleas of Adams County, Pennsylvania. He received a sentence of 35 years.


On November 9, 1995, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Van Metre with kidnapping Holly Ann Blake in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 1201(a)(1) (West 1984). 3 Van Metre pleaded not guilty. On December 6, 1995, the Government gave notice that it intended to introduce evidence at trial indicating that Van Metre had been convicted in Pennsylvania state court of kidnapping and sexually assaulting another woman, Mary Yohe, eleven days prior to his alleged kidnapping of Blake. Van Metre filed a motion in limine to exclude the Yohe evidence under Rules 403 and 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence. He also moved to suppress his various statements made to the Pennsylvania and Maryland state police between October 3 and October 7, 1991, and all evidence seized as a result thereof, alleging that the statements were obtained in violation of his Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights. After a pretrial hearing on the motions, the district court denied Van Metre's motions. In a Memorandum Opinion dated April 26, 1996, the district court concluded that the Yohe evidence was admissible under Rule 404(b) for the limited purpose of showing Van Metre's intent. The district court rejected Van Metre's claims that his statements were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights, finding specifically that Van Metre's arrest was legal and that the...

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