Monday, July 28, 2014

Gun theft suspect’s statements admitted for trial

Shawn Burgess, of Exeter Township, had sought to have his comments excluded from testimony

September 18. 2013 11:12PM

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WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County judge ruled this week that statements an Exeter Township man made in the case of a stolen gun used in a murder-suicide can be used at his trial on Monday.

Judge Fred Pierantoni denied a request by Shawn Burgess’ attorney, Mark Bufalino, to throw out statements Burgess made to investigators in an incident involving a .22-caliber revolver used in a May 2011 shooting.

Burgess, 38, and Jessica Rinehimer, 27, with last known addresses of South Main Street, Ashley, were charged in March 2012 with stealing the gun from a Mountain Top home and giving it to Herbert Robinson Jr., 21, in exchange for six heroin packets, according to court documents.

Hanover Township police said they learned the gun was stolen when James Cooper, 39, of Scranton, shot and killed Shana Bagley, 25, and shot Bagley’s husband, Brad Bagley, 27, and Thomas Harris, in Hanover Village on May 20, 2011. Cooper then took his own life with the gun.

Investigators believe Cooper drove to the apartment complex with the intent to shoot his ex-girlfriend, Shaundra Langille, who the day before had been given temporary custody of their infant daughter. Langille hid in a closet, protecting her daughter and Shana Bagley’s child.

Bufalino argued in court papers the statements obtained by police were made in violation of Burgess’ rights, noting that Burgess was not read his rights and believed he was restricted when questioned by police.

Prosecutors countered that Burgess made the statements in a knowing manner and the statements were made when Burgess was not in custody and read his rights.

Pierantoni’s ruling stated that because of the length of time of police questioning of Burgess, 55 minutes, the location of the questioning and because no restraints were used and law enforcement did not shove, threaten or use force to obtain the statements, Burgess’ request was being denied.

“(Burgess) was not in custody during the interview,” Pierantoni wrote. “The interview did not constitute custodial interrogation.”

Rinehimer pleaded guilty to related charges and will be sentenced after the conclusion of Burgess’ case.

Robinson, 22, of Philadelphia, was sentenced in June to 27 to 54 months in state prison.

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