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Judge: Suppression motion denied for accused murderer

ELLSWORTH -- Pierce County prosecutors won what they said was a pivotal round of pretrial proceedings in the case of a Prescott woman accused of killing her boyfriend and driving his body to another state.

ELLSWORTH -- Pierce County prosecutors won what they said was a pivotal round of pretrial proceedings in the case of a Prescott woman accused of killing her boyfriend and driving his body to another state.

At issue before Pepin/Buffalo County Circuit Court Judge James Duvall was whether statements made by Rose Marie Kuehni to investigators would be admissible during trial.

Kuehni, 45, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse -- charges that stem from a Nov. 22, 2015, incident at her Ash Street home.

Prosecutors claim Kuehni fatally shot her boyfriend, 51-year-old Douglas Bailey, placed his body in a box and drove it to Illinois, where another man took the box and later dumped it off a Kentucky mountainside.

Defense attorney Mark Gherty argued that statements Kuehni made at her house while authorities from Illinois and Pierce County executed a search warrant -- but before she was placed under arrest -- should be suppressed.

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Gherty also raised questions as to whether an investigator’s response to Kuehni’s questions about having a lawyer present violated her rights.

Pierce County prosecutors countered that her statements were neither coerced nor gained illegally -- an argument Duvall sided with.

He said the fact that Kuehni was at her home, was aware why police were there -- to execute a search warrant -- and that she wasn’t restrained by officers suggested the statements she made were voluntary.

“There was no deception,” the judge said in striking down the suppression motion, later adding, “I don’t feel that she clearly and unequivocally invoked her Fifth Amendment right to counsel.”

Duvall’s decision paves the way for Kuehni’s alleged confession and other statements to be presented to a jury.

“The ruling was very significant,” said Rory O’Sullivan, who is prosecuting the case with fellow Pierce County Assistant District Attorney Bill Thorie. “Because, if the suppression motion had been granted, then not only the confession, but arguably all of the evidence flowing from that confession, would also have been suppressed, which would have made the case much more difficult -- if not impossible -- to try.”

Duvall reached his decision after a more than three-hour hearing that included testimony from Peoria County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Dave Hoyle, Pierce County sheriff’s investigator Douglas Ducklow and Prescott Police detective Kris Stewart.

It was revealed at the hearing that Kuehni attempted phoning a friend named “Mark” while investigators combed through her property and told Hoyle the friend was a lawyer. Asked later by Duvall, Gherty admitted he was the “Mark” Kuehni was attempting to reach by phone.

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Kuehni told Hoyle she didn’t know if she should talk to detectives without first consulting a lawyer. Prosecutors played a portion of the recorded interview at the sheriff’s office.

“If he comes, he’s going to tell you not to talk,” Hoyle responded.

He testified that if she talked with investigators, it would allow her story to get out -- a statement corroborated in the video recording.

“I can’t make that decision for you,” Hoyle is heard telling Kuehni. “Sometimes things are explainable. This is your chance to explain.”

Gherty argued that Hoyle’s suggestion that a lawyer would keep her from talking was problematic.

“That’s the coercion,” he said.

Thorie said Wisconsin law requires suspects to give unambiguous statements about having a lawyer present and that Kuehni’s comments didn’t reach that threshold.

“Miranda was properly given to her,” he said. “She had a story she wanted to tell.”

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The case continues toward an eight-day trial set to begin Aug. 8. A final pretrial hearing is set for July 15.

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