PORT TOWNSEND — A Jefferson County judge denied a defense motion to suppress evidence from being introduced in a case that involves the death of a Port Townsend musician.
Superior Court Judge Keith Harper ruled Friday that Port Townsend police officers had probable cause to seize the house of Adam Michael Kelly based on information they had gathered during their investigation into Jarrod Bramson’s death.
Kelly, 38, was charged in March with controlled substances homicide of Bramson, 43, who died of a heroin overdose.
Kelly has since remained at the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Controlled substances homicide is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
He faces additional drug charges, including using a building as a drug lab.
Defense attorney Richard Davies of Jefferson Associated Counsel sought to keep evidence discovered at Kelly’s house out of the trial, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 16 and last for two weeks.
“Law enforcement did not have probable cause to seize Mr. Kelly’s home and search it without a warrant in the early morning hours of March 28, 2019,” Davies wrote in a supplemental brief filed Wednesday.
“These illegalities tainted the derivative information also cited in support of the warrant issued the next afternoon, so evidence discovered as a result of executing the warrant must be suppressed.”
Harper listened to nearly five hours of testimony during a special hearing Oct. 17, with Port Townsend Police Sgt. Jason Greenspane and Detective Jon Stuart as witnesses.
The judge summarized their testimony in about 20 minutes Friday, highlighting key points of information that led to their decision to seize the house in the 1400 block of 12th Street in Port Townsend.
Harper said probable cause existed for the seizure, but the protective sweep the officers performed after the seizure was not valid, nor were the circumstances in order to justify it.
“For me, it’s sort of a close call,” Harper said. “After hearing the testimony — I went through all of it at least a couple of times — it’s apparent to me probable cause existed to seize the house.”
Court records state Bramson was left in his own running vehicle in the parking lot at Jefferson Healthcare hospital, and two people were seen on surveillance video walking away from the area.
A woman called the emergency department and asked if her friend was there, and nurses eventually found Bramson unresponsive in the vehicle.
Bramson was found with an ice bag in his groin area, a practice some believe will slow down the overdose process, nurses told police officers. The nurses said the practice doesn’t actually work.
The ice bag itself had the name of a steroid on it, Greenspane testified.
Bramson didn’t have any obvious signs of trauma, and track marks were found on his body, leading medical personnel to believe it was an overdose.
Meanwhile, the phone number from the woman who called the emergency department was tracked to Kelly and his home address based on police contact associated with the number the previous August.
Greenspane testified Oct. 17 that it was the next logical lead in the case.
“We suspected that the two people who walked away from Jarrod were associated with that address,” Greenspane said.
The home was between four and five blocks from the hospital, and when police made contact, Greenspane said Kelly told them Bramson had just been at his house and that he was “messed up” when he arrived.
During the special hearing last month, deputy prosecuting attorney Chris Ashcraft played about 15 minutes of a 45-minute audio recording Stuart made when he interviewed Kelly outside his front door that night.
That’s when Kelly learned Bramson had died, according to court records.
Based on information they had gathered and background they had learned about a possible drug lab at Kelly’s house — a report that gained more credibility that night — officers eventually seized the house in order to preserve evidence.
Greenspane said they performed the sweep through the house before they were granted a warrant to make sure there weren’t any other people inside the house. There also had been a report of weapons at the residence based on police contact the previous summer, he said, adding he was concerned about officers’ safety.
During the sweep, Greenspane said they went in specifically looking for doors, closets and other places people might hide, such as under a bed.
“I went in and turned left, and I opened a door and saw a lot of scientific glassware that you might see in a lab,” Greenspane testified. “It looked drug-related, but not meth. If it was something like that, it was something I’d never seen.
“It was not just done with ‘bucket chemistry.’ It was not just, ‘Throw something in a bucket and make a recipe from the internet.’”
Greenspane said he was concerned about his health and his fellow officers, so he used his radio and told them to hurry with their sweep and get out.
Davies didn’t think the evidence gathered during the early part of the investigation was enough to establish probable cause to seize the house, and that all the evidence inside the house — including the lab — should not be allowed during the trial.
Harper disagreed, with the exception of the sweep.
“Having said that, there was nothing learned on the protective sweep that tainted the warrant,” he said. “They already had sources that said there may be a possible drug lab.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].