PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson has ruled that Dennis Bauer, who is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the triple homicide over the holidays, should be transferred to the Kitsap County jail as he awaits his 2020 trial.
Bauer, Kallie Ann Letellier and Ryan Warren Ward have all been charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the Dec. 26 shooting deaths of Darrel Iverson, Jordan Iverson and Tiffany May.
Erickson made the decision Friday after hearing oral arguments and having a chance to review case law, striking a compromise between the prosecution and defense. The ruling came 10 days after she vacated her Feb. 8 ruling that Bauer should be transferred, citing case law from Cobb v. Aytch on transfers of inmates that was discussed during the Feb. 8 hearing.
After the state made a last-minute motion Feb. 8 to transfer Bauer, she “should have done a better job of taking the time to read [the case] before I ruled,” Erickson said.
“With the transfer of pre-trial detainees, at the minimum, they need at least the chance to oppose the transfer,” Erickson said. “I think we did meet the requirement … but I thought it was important to give [the defense] more time to respond.”
Michele Devlin, chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said in a memo supporting the transfer that Cobb v. Aytch didn’t apply to this case because there would be no substantial wrongs that would arise from moving the inmates.
Erickson ruled that Bauer should be transferred to the Kitsap County jail until Dec. 15 and that if his attorney provides three day’s notice he will be transferred to Clallam County — at the county’s expense — so they can meet in person.
Ward is held in the Jefferson County Jail. His attorney did not oppose a transfer. Letellier remains held in the Clallam County jail.
Darrel Iverson, Jordan Iverson and May were all shot multiple times, including once in the head. The Iversons’ bodies were found New Year’s Eve under tarps and debris on the elder Iverson’s property at 52 Bear Meadow Road.
May’s body was found the next day in a locked shed.
Defense attorney Karen Unger had concerns about how she could adequately represent Bauer if he is in a jail 80 miles from Port Angeles and Devlin was concerned about potential witness tampering and collusion.
“Your Honor, this request in unprecedented,” Unger said as she made her arguments. “There’s absolutely no reason to treat Mr. Bauer any differently than any other suspect who is being held on conditions of release.”
Unger said the only difference in this case is that the victims are related to the jail superintendent, Wendy Peterson.
“To want to move my client for the reasons so stated are not supported by any reasonable interpretation of a defendant’s right to counsel,” she said.
Devlin expressed concern that Bauer may tamper with or intimidate witnesses. Of the more than 30 people identified in the probable cause statement, only six have not stayed at the jail, court records say.
“Throughout the probable cause statement there’s indications of fear of Mr. Bauer of retaliation, intimidation and tying up loose ends,” Devlin said.
Erickson said that she understands the state’s concern about potential witness tampering and collusion.
Devlin also cited a recent incident in the jail in which Bauer is accused of attempting to incite violence against corrections deputies. Unger was not made aware of the incident until she arrived to court.
“Mr. Bauer is now a safety risk at the jail,” Devlin said.
An incident report filed with the court Friday says an inmate told guards that he heard Bauer say “we could overpower the guards, there is only three of them. We could take the stuff off their belt and hit them over the head with it. There are plenty of things in the cell that we can use as weapons.”
Unger said that she was not aware of that incident and even if it did happen, it wouldn’t justify moving Bauer to another county.
“There’s nothing before this court that he’s a management problem,” she said. “When officers have been attacked by inmates, they don’t move the inmates. I can’t think of any time a defendant has been moved to another facility.”
Unger also questioned that if Bauer is a management problem, why would the Kitsap County jail be willing to accept the transfer.
Devlin has argued that moving Bauer to another jail would eliminate the possibility that there is mistreatment or harm that could be attributed to Peterson, the jail, the sheriff, law enforcement and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Erickson said that though she approved the transfer, that argument is not one of the reasons.
“I’m very sorry for Wendy Peterson’s loss … but I don’t find that to be a valid argument to transfer him, with all due respect,” Erickson said.
“I agree with Ms. Unger, that Ms. Peterson is a professional. I’m also not persuaded by some issue with somehow Mr. Bauer is mistreated in the jail because of Ms. Peterson’s relationship to the case.”
Her concern was potential witness tampering and collusion, she said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].