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Judge rules on Hurdel evidence suppression

A Webster County District Court judge has denied the majority of a motion to suppress evidence made by a man accused of murdering his estranged wife.

On May 7, District Court Judge Christopher Polking listened to arguments from defendant Justin Hurdel and from First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge on the defense’s motion to suppress statements the defendant made to law enforcement after being arrested and several items seized in search warrants following the crime.

Hurdel is accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife, Maggie Flint, on Aug. 5, 2020, in a garage located at 526 S. 19th St. Hurdel was quickly identified as a suspect and after a 17-hour manhunt, he was located the next morning by law enforcement, who found him near the junction of U.S. Highway 20 and Webster County Road P59 when a Webster County Sheriff’s K-9 tracked him to a nearby shed. He is charged with first-degree murder.

During the hearing on the motion to suppress, new information came to light about a self-inflicted gunshot wound to Hurdel’s nose that was discovered when he was arrested.

The defense argued that the police dismissed UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center’s staff’s recommendation that Hurdel be transported to Iowa City for “urgent” treatment of his injuries.

In his order of suppression, Polking found that “it is clear from the totality of the circumstances that when the hospital said he should get to Iowa City as soon as possible, that meant as soon as reasonably possible. It is clear they wanted him evaluated for plastic surgery on his nose, but that his health was not in immediate danger.”

The defense argued that statements Hurdel made to officers after being arrested should not be admitted into evidence at trial because Hurdel had invoked his right to an attorney during the interview and officers continued to talk to him.

Upon reviewing the video of the interview, Polking found that the statement Hurdel made that defense claims was him invoking his right to counsel was not unequivocal or unambiguous, so it did not qualify as the defendant invoking his rights.

In the recording of the interview, Fort Dodge Police Department Detective Larry Hedlund does seem to understand Hurdel’s statement of “How about we get my court appointed lawyer rolling and then we’ll go to Iowa City and then I’ll talk your ear off,” as the defendant invoking his right to counsel and leaves the room. Hedlund later returns with food and water for Hurdel, who said he was hungry. Hurdel then started talking to Hedlund again and soon after signed a waiver of his Miranda rights.

The defense argued that Hurdel did not voluntarily waive his Miranda rights, but Polking ruled that the evidence did show that Hurdel waived his Miranda rights voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently.

Another piece of evidence the defense sought to suppress was the defendant’s cell phone, which the defense argued was seized in violation of Hurdel’s Fourth Amendment rights as it was never listed on any search warrant application. The state argued that because the phone was found abandoned on Old Mill Road on the outskirts of Fort Dodge by two private citizens who then turned it into law enforcement, the state had no obligation to obtain a search warrant. Hurdel had also told Hedlund during his interview that he threw his phone out the window.

Polking ruled that Hurdel had voluntarily relinquished his interest in the phone when he threw it out the window and abandoned it and no longer retained a reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone.

The defense also objected to several search warrants as being too general in nature and objected to the items seized from those search warrants being introduced at trial.

Polking ruled that a red bag of drug paraphernalia found during a search of a Ford F-150 pickup registered to Hurdel but actually possessed by another person, was outside the scope of the search warrant for the vehicle and should be suppressed.

The judge also ruled that a suspected improvised explosive device seized in a search of Hurdel’s abandoned car was outside the scope of the search warrant for that vehicle and should be suppressed. Drug paraphernalia, a white pill and “green leafy substances” seized in a search of the defendant’s mother’s home were also suppressed by the judge as being outside the scope of the search warrant for that residence.

Hurdel’s first-degree murder trial is scheduled to begin May 25 at the Webster County Courthouse.

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