State v. Lohnes, C3-82-1650

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtKELLEY
Citation344 N.W.2d 605
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Dale Martin LOHNES, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. C3-82-1650,C3-82-1650
Decision Date03 February 1984

Syllabus by the Court

1. Warrantless entry into the abode of an accused and his subsequent warrantless arrest were justified by exigent circumstances.

2. Seizure of defendant's wet clothing which was in plain view at the time of the arrest was not constitutionally impermissible.

3. Seizure of blood stains from a laundry tub was not constitutionally impermissible.

4. Statement given by defendant following arrest and Miranda warnings was admissible in evidence.

C. Paul Jones, Minnesota State Public Defender, Minneapolis, Brian Wojtalewicz, Appleton, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Fabel, Deputy Atty. Gen., St. Paul, John Riches, II, Swift County Atty., Benson, for respondent.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc.

KELLEY, Justice.

Appellant, Dale Martin Lohnes, was charged with the July 12, 1982 murder of DeAnne Dahl in Murdock, Minnesota. A jury found him guilty of murder in the second degree under Minn.Stat. Sec. 609.19, subd. 2 (1982). On appeal he seeks reversal of his conviction and alleges that his arrest by officers at nighttime in his place of abode without a warrant violated his constitutional rights and that evidence obtained by investigating officers thereafter should have been suppressed at his trial. We conclude exigent circumstances justified the entry into his abode and his subsequent arrest. We further conclude that the seizure of clothing which had been washed and of blood stains from a laundry tub were constitutionally permissible. Accordingly, we affirm.

Before addressing the legal issues, it is necessary to state the facts in some detail. On July 12, 1982, 22-year-old DeAnne Dahl died from loss of blood due to a 1 3/8 inch laceration of her throat. Occupants of an apartment above the Murdock Post Office were awakened at approximately 3:50 a.m. by a pounding on their door. Upon answering the knock, they discovered Ms. Dahl lying in the hall covered with blood. Her pants were unzipped and part way down. The rescue squad was called immediately but Ms. Dahl died about an hour later.

At 4:04 a.m. Swift County Sheriff Kenneth Hanson received a call informing him that a young woman had been discovered with her throat slashed in the Peterson Apartments in Murdock. 1 Sheriff Hanson immediately drove to Murdock from his house 15 miles away and arrived at the apartments at 4:26 a.m. He was met there by one of his deputies, Larry Hindberg, who had arrived at the scene minutes earlier. Deputy Hindberg directed the sheriff into the apartment where the assault had taken place. Upon entering, the sheriff observed blood spattered on the walls and floor throughout the living room and on a chair close to the door. He further observed bloody hand prints on the floor leading to a room in the apartment where, Deputy Hindberg had informed him, an individual was sleeping. Upon entering this room, he observed a male lying in a blood-soaked bed. This person was Mark Peterson.

Before awakening Peterson the sheriff went to his squad car to get a camera. While outside, two firefighters from the fire hall across the street 2 informed him they had seen an older green Pontiac leaving the apartment parking lot at approximately 4:20 a.m. They had observed two individuals in this car and recorded the South Dakota license plate number BHT 129. The sheriff immediately radioed a bulletin to police authorities to stop the car.

After returning to the apartment and taking several pictures of the still-sleeping Peterson, Sheriff Hanson succeeded in awakening Peterson with some difficulty. When aroused, Peterson looked and acted confused and muttered, "good job, good job." When Peterson was finally aroused and sat upon the bed, the officers noted there was no blood under his body where he had been lying on the bed. During questioning, Peterson informed the officers that he was the superintendent of a crew that had been constructing an elevator in Murdock. On July 11, 1982, the crew had completed one phase of the construction which consisted of continuous pouring of concrete and had worked many continuous hours without rest. Upon completion of that phase of construction, the company threw a party for the crew which started at the job site and later moved to the Peterson Apartments parking lot and a nearby park. Many of the persons attending the party had consumed a large amount of intoxicants. Some local women had joined the party, including Ms. Dahl. Peterson also informed the officers that his brother-in-law, David Houska, was sleeping in another room of the apartment. The officers then awakened Houska.

From talking with Peterson and Houska, Sheriff Hanson learned that Peterson and Ms. Dahl had been in the apartment about midnight when defendant Lohnes walked into the apartment, sat down on a chair in the living room, and fell asleep. Ms. Dahl and Peterson then returned to the parking lot. Around 1:30 a.m. Peterson returned to the apartment and went to sleep in his room. Defendant was then still asleep in the chair. At 2 a.m. Houska and Ms. Dahl came to the apartment. Ms. Dahl sat down in another chair in the living room and fell asleep while Houska made something to eat. Before going to bed about 2:30 a.m., Houska unsuccessfully attempted to arouse Ms. Dahl. Thus, when he retired both defendant Lohnes and the victim, DeAnne Dahl, were asleep in separate chairs in the living room of the apartment. Thereafter, neither Peterson nor Houska heard or saw anything until they were awakened by the officers.

In answer to an inquiry by the sheriff whether either was familiar with an older green Pontiac, Peterson stated it belonged to Larry Lovejoy, one of the construction crew members. The sheriff, Peterson and Houska went to the office at the construction job site to find a local address for Lovejoy. While there, Houska informed the sheriff that Lohnes had been driving the Pontiac earlier the previous evening and inquired whether the officers had checked at the Diederich house where defendant was staying to see if the vehicle was there. Upon receiving this information, Peterson directed Sheriff Hanson to the Diederich house where they observed a green Pontiac with South Dakota license plate BHT 139 (emphasis added) parked at the curb. By this time it was approximately 5:05 a.m.

Deputy Hindberg joined the group at the Diederich house. Peterson, who had previously lived in the basement of the Diederich house and was familiar with the layout of the house, led the officers around to the back and through the outside entrance door into a garage. Peterson then opened an unlocked door into the house, following which Peterson and the officers walked down the steps into the basement. At the bottom of the stairs they entered the basement through an open-framed door. Peterson turned on the light and identified three men sleeping in the room. One of those was defendant Lohnes. He was the only one in the room sleeping under covers. Another individual was asleep in a second room in the basement. When Sheriff Hanson pulled the covers back to awaken Lohnes, he observed defendant sleeping in the nude. Hanson also noticed clothes lying next to the bed. When he reached down to hand them to the defendant, the sheriff noticed the clothes (shirt, pants and shorts) were wet. He also observed a wet towel lying on the floor next to Lohnes' bed. Sheriff Hanson thought it strange that defendant appeared to be the only individual in the room "cleaned up" and sleeping under covers. 3

After getting out of bed, defendant dressed in other clothes. By this time the other three men in the basement apartment were awake. Sheriff Hanson asked Peterson, Houska, defendant and Kohl, another occupant of the basement, to come with the officers for questioning. The other occupants were directed to leave the basement apartment but to stay close by because the police would be questioning them. Having learned that Kohl had been in a fight at the party with Rick Palmersheim, another member of the construction crew, and that Palmersheim's bloody shirt had been found by the rescue volunteers, the sheriff took Peterson, Houska and Kohl with him to Benson, a town about 14 miles away, where he believed Palmersheim was staying that night.

Meanwhile, a makeshift police station was established in the Murdock firehall across the street from the Peterson Apartments. Deputy Hindberg, taking defendant Lohnes with him, drove back to the Peterson Apartments around 6 a.m. The deputy parked and locked his squad car, leaving the defendant inside. Shortly thereafter, Sheriff Hanson returned to the Peterson Apartments from Benson and met Deputy Hindberg and Thomas Erson, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent, who had by this time arrived at the scene. Erson and Hanson questioned Houska, Peterson, Kohl and Palmersheim between 7 and 9:30 a.m. While they were being questioned, defendant Lohnes, apparently asleep, remained in Deputy Hindberg's squad car on the street.

At about 9:30 a.m. at Sheriff Hanson's request, Hindberg removed Lohnes from the car, handcuffed him and brought him to the firehall for questioning. 4 When defendant Lohnes arrived in the firehall, the cuffs were removed, he was furnished a cup of coffee, and permitted to use restroom facilities. Thereafter he was given the Miranda warnings. He was then briefly questioned by Hanson and Erson. After again giving Lohnes the Miranda warnings, his interrogation was taped. In the taped statement the defendant told the officers that he had gotten blood on his shirt and pants when he had attempted to break up the fight between Palmersheim and Kohl. He admitted to having a conversation with DeAnne Dahl the night before. He claimed that when he awoke in the living room of the apartment Ms. Dahl was still asleep in another chair. ...

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