Michael Curry case: District Attorney Slater wants to exclude hearsay in trial

Filings show evidence found in home allowed

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comApril 9, 2011 

The prosecution in the murder case against Michael Curry, accused of killing his pregnant wife and two children in 1985, filed two motions late Thursday, asking the court to exclude hearsay statements made by three people and to deny a defense motion to suppress evidence found at Curry’s Dalton, Ga., home.

Curry is accused of hacking to death his 24-year-old pregnant wife Ann, 4-year-old daughter Erika and 20-month-old son Ryan with a bush ax at their Rockhurst Drive home on Aug. 29, 1985. He is in the Muscogee County Jail awaiting a trial scheduled to start April 18 in front of Muscogee County Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen.

In one motion, District Attorney Julia Slater asks that the court not allow statements made by Jeffrey Blacker, Pamela Bachman or Nathaniel Askew into evidence.

Askew told police that a man named James Lewis came to his home on the day of the slayings and asked if he could borrow a gun so he could rob a man’s “old lady” of a large amount of cocaine. Askew told Lewis he had no gun, so Lewis left.

According to the state’s motion, Askew later failed a polygraph test after giving his statement.

The police later located Lewis, who “adamantly denied that any such conversation had ever taken place,” according to the filing. The state points out that he passed a polygraph test and that there was no gun used in the Curry killings nor was there any evidence of a large amount of cocaine being in the house.

Bachman was a dancer at the old Pillow Talk Lounge on First Avenue. She told police that between 5 and 6 p.m. on August 27, 28 or 29 of that year, a white male stranger told her he had just killed three people. She claimed she called police the next day.

Police later confirmed that she had called Phenix City police on Aug. 29, asking if three people had been killed in Columbus.

“This would mean the ‘confession’ was made to Bachman on the evening of August 28, 1985 -- a full 24 hours before the bodies were discovered,” the state’s motion points out.

The third individual, Jeffrey Blacker was a “deranged mental patient,” according to the prosecution. He had escaped from West Central Georgia Mental Hospital the day before the slayings and told police in 1986 that he was the killer.

“For a variety of reasons too numerous to recount here, he was ruled out as a suspect,” the motion says. It also points out that Blacker “completely repudiated his statement” in 1988, saying he had hoped to gain a transfer from a Kansas institution where he was being held.

In its conclusion, the prosecution states: “The information provided in the three statements is hearsay. They were made at varying times after the murders. The statements were not corroborated by any other evidence, but were actually inconsistent with the facts of the case.”

Warrant was warranted, Slater says

During a March 8 hearing before Judge Allen, public defender Wadkins, argued that evidence gathered during an Oct. 14, 2008, search of Curry’s home be suppressed. Slater disagreed and filed a supplemental brief late Thursday in support of her position.

According to a prosecution’s filing on Oct. 14, 2008, Curry’s ex-wife, Susan Curry, called Columbus police and told them that she had found a letter written to Curry from his mother, Joyce Curry. The letter said, “after I die of cancer, there will only be one person who knows what happened to Ann and the kids,” the filing states. That and other statements Susan Curry made to authorities were the basis for a Whitfield County judge to issue a search warrant.

In her motion filed Friday, Slater argues that there was clearly sufficient cause for the warrant to be issued. She also argues that, even if the warrant were ruled invalid, the state should still be allowed to use certain items found in Curry’s house.

Slater cites “inevitable discovery doctrine,” which means certain items found in the search “ultimately or inevitably would have been discovered by lawful means, without reference to police error or misconduct.”

Slater points to details of a life insurance settlement that were discovered, which were also published in the Ledger-Enquirer. Also, the marriage certificate and divorce agreement between Michael Curry and Anita Baker would have been otherwise available, Slater argues. The district attorney also points to phone records that the prosecution would have obtained, based on Susan Curry’s statement to police that her husband had been checking phone records to see if she was in contact with police.

During the March 8 hearing, Judge Allen said he was inclined to side with the defense. He called the search warrant’s basis “clearly insufficient on its face,” and said getting the evidence admitted at Curry’s April 18 trial would be “an uphill battle for the state.”

The prosecution’s filings come on the heels of a motion filed Thursday by Wadkins saying that since the case against his client is circumstantial, “the proven facts must … exclude every other reasonable theory other than the guilt of the accused.” Wadkins’ motion then suggests that a neighbor of the Currys could have been the killer.

Curry was not charged with the slayings for 24 years. He was living in Dalton, Ga., when authorities arrested him on May 20, 2009, after a grand jury indicted him on evidence assembled by cold-case investigators.

He since has been held in the Muscogee County Jail. Allen has set his bond at $300,000 -- $100,000 for each of the three victims.

Since Allen has issued a gag order in the case, attorneys, investigators and others involved in it are not at liberty to comment on it publicly.

Staff writer Tim Chitwood contributed to this report.

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