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Hurdel seeks to suppress evidence

New information revealed during hearing

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Fort Dodge Police Department Detective Larry Hedlund testifies during an evidence suppression hearing for the Justin Hurdel murder trial on Friday at the Webster County Courthouse.

Justin Hurdel, the man accused of shooting his estranged wife, Maggie Flint, to death in August 2020, suffered serious injuries to his face after he attempted to take his own life on the day of the alleged murder, new court documents show.

Hurdel, 44, of Fort Dodge, is charged with first-degree murder and will be going to trial in Webster County at the end of this month. Flint was known as Maggie Hurdel during her marriage to the defendant.

On Aug. 5, 2020, shortly after 2 p.m., officers were called to 526 S. 19th St. for reports of shots fired. When officers arrived, they located Flint with what appeared to be a gunshot wound. Paramedics attempted life-saving efforts, but she died at the scene.

Hurdel was soon after named a suspect in the homicide and attempts to locate him were underway. After a 17-hour manhunt across the city, Hurdel was located near the area of the junction of U.S. Highway 20 and Webster County Road P59, south of Fort Dodge. Webster County Sheriff’s Office K9 Swamper was deployed to track the suspect, who was quickly tracked to a nearby shed where he was taken into custody without incident.

Hurdel was transported to UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center for injuries sustained prior to his arrest. The Messenger learned on Friday during a pretrial court hearing, that the injuries Hurdel sustained were a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Hurdel’s medical records from Aug. 6, 2020, were admitted into evidence and showed that he suffered a “jagged” laceration “through underlying tissue” of the forehead and nose. The records went on to say “his nose is missing significant tissue.”

In a hearing on the defense’s motion to suppress on Friday morning at the Webster County Courthouse, the defense argued that police failed to heed recommendations from medical staff at TRMC to have Hurdel “urgently” transported to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City for further medical treatment for his injuries.

Fort Dodge Police Department Sgt. Evan Thompson testified during Friday’s hearing that Hurdel “did not seem to be in substantial pain” while at TRMC, and the defendant had said, “It looks worse than it feels.”

Thompson also testified that hospital staff were aware that law enforcement planned to take Hurdel to the Webster County Law Enforcement Center before later transporting him to Iowa City.

Defense attorney Katherine Flickinger also argued that Fort Dodge Police Department Detective Larry Hedlund’s interrogation of the defendant on Aug. 6 violated the defendant’s rights to legal representation.

“Mr. Hurdel invoked his right to counsel when he was being interviewed by Detective Hedlund and he said, ‘How about we get my court appointed lawyer rolling, then we’ll go to Iowa City, and then I’ll talk your ear off,'” Flickinger’s motion said.

In a resistance to the defense’s motion, First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge wrote that the moment referenced in Flickinger’s motion happened approximately 14.5 minutes into the recorded interview between Hedlund and the defendant and that Hedlund immediately left the interview room after it occurred.

About 10 minutes later on the recording, the resistance motion reads, Hedlund returned to the interview room to bring the defendant food and a drink and the defendant voluntarily stated, “We can talk, you can ask questions or whatever.” Shortly thereafter Hurdel also signed a waiver of his Miranda rights.

Flickinger argued that Hedlund providing the food and drink to Hurdel was a coercive measure to get the defendant to talk, but Baldridge argued that because Hurdel had been on the run for nearly 17 hours and presumably had nothing to eat or drink during that time, Hedlund was just trying to “be a decent human being” to the suspect.

In her motion to suppress, Flickinger also objected to the “broad and unlimited categories of items” sought in several search warrants issued during the investigation, saying they were too general in nature.

In one search warrant, investigators listed “any and all clothing to include but not limited to camouflage printed shirts and shorts and black and/or tan in color shirts and shorts” as items sought after in Hurdel’s residence in the 1500 block of Sixth Avenue South.

Flickinger argued that that description was too broad for a legal search warrant, noting that with that specific phrasing, law enforcement could have seized a woman’s dress completely unrelated to the crime being investigated.

Flickinger also argued that the search of Hurdel’s cell phone was unconstitutional because it was not seized pursuant to a warrant. In resistance, Baldridge argued that law enforcement had no obligation to obtain a search warrant for Hurdel’s cell phone because it was found abandoned on Old Mill Road on the outskirts of Fort Dodge by a private citizen who then turned it over to law enforcement without any knowledge of who it belonged to. Hurdel also stated during his interview with Hedlund that he threw his phone out the window.

Case law has found “once an individual voluntarily abandons property, he or she no longer has standing to challenge any search or seizure that may be made,” Baldridge wrote.

In executing a search warrant for Hurdel’s car, which was found abandoned on Avenue B near the Fort Dodge Water Treatment Facility, investigators indicated that they found and seized an “orange container suspected IED,” or improvised explosive device. It is unclear if the suspected IED was confirmed to be an explosive or if it was found to be something else.

Defense argued that the suspected IED was not listed on the search warrant application and is “beyond the scope” of the warrant and that there was nothing indicating it’s “immediate incriminating nature.”

Baldridge said that he has no intention of bringing up the suspected IED at trial because he is focused on prosecuting the murder, but defended law enforcement’s seizure of the object.

“Clearly officers shouldn’t walk away from a bomb sitting in a car,” he said.

Hurdel’s first-degree murder trial is scheduled to start May 24 and last about two weeks. District Court Judge Christopher Polking, who is presiding over the trial and heard Friday’s arguments in court, will issue a ruling on the suppression sometime before the start of trial.

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