Bloodstained jeans to be allowed in double-murder trial

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — A Clallam County Superior Court judge has denied Darold Stenson's motion to suppress the bloodstained jeans he wore when he allegedly shot and killed his wife and business partner more than 20 years ago.

Stenson, 60, will be retried on two counts of first-degree aggravated murder in Kitsap County in September.

Judge S. Brooke Taylor denied a defense motion to suppress the pants and gravel evidence at trial — and ruled on several other motions — in a daylong pretrial hearing Wednesday.

Stenson's lawyers argued that the pants should be suppressed because they were mishandled by investigators.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly said the motion to suppress the pants and gravel was one of the biggest, “if not the biggest, motion” that Taylor considered this week.

Stenson is charged with double murder in the killings of his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner, at his bird farm on Kane Lane near Sequim in March 1993.

Convicted in Clallam County in 1994, Stenson spent 14 years on death row and was eight days away from being executed by lethal injection when a judge issued a stay of execution in late 2008.

Stenson has maintained his innocence.

In an 8-1 ruling, the state Supreme Court in May 2012 overturned Stenson's original conviction on the grounds that his rights were violated because the state wrongfully suppressed evidence, including photographs depicting a Clallam County sheriff's deputy wearing the blood-spattered jeans.

The high court remanded the case back to Clallam County for a new trial.

Taylor in April granted a defense motion for a change of venue because of substantial publicity surrounding the case over the past 20 years.

Although Taylor still will preside over the trial, a Kitsap County jury will determine his fate.

Blake Kremer, one of Stenson's three attorneys, argued in open court June 12 that the detective, Monty Martin, broke the chain of custody when he took the pants to his “unsanitary garage and spread them out on the floor and experimented with them” in the wake of the murders.

Bloody patches of the jeans were cut out and sent to an FBI lab and discarded.

Kremer, a University Place lawyer, said the only value of the pants was the “prejudicial shock value of showing a pair of pants that a defendant was wearing that had blood on them.”

After denying the motion to suppress the pants and gravel from Hoerner's pants, Taylor denied a state motion to prohibit other evidence and a defense motion to suppress video recording of Stenson walking through the crime scene with investigators.

Taylor also authorized out-of-state witness subpoenas for the four- to six-week trial, which will begin with jury selection Sept. 16.

Multiple witnesses are scheduled to testify in support of a defense argument that a person other than Stenson may have been involved in the murders.

Stenson's other attorneys are Roger Hunko of Port Orchard and Sherilyn Peterson of Seattle.

Kelly is the only lawyer representing the state. She was granted a two-month trial continuance in June.

Taylor on Wednesday set pretrial hearing for 10 a.m. Aug. 28 in Clallam County Superior Court.



Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Last modified: July 13. 2013 12:53AM
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