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Judge upholds police interrogation of Ogden murder suspect Caleb Skipps

By Mark Shenefelt standard-Examiner - | Jul 27, 2021

OGDEN — A Pleasant View man accused of shooting two men in a drug deal freely made incriminating statements to police, a judge has ruled in rejecting a motion to suppress the evidence.

Caleb Skipps’ attorney, Emily Swenson, had argued that the 20-year-old’s rights were violated when Ogden police detectives interrogated him in the Jan. 9, 2020, death of Isaac Gonzalez, 21, of North Ogden, and the shooting of a second man, who survived.

But in a ruling Monday, 2nd District Judge Camille Neider said Skipps resumed speaking to detectives after he invoked his Miranda rights to make no more statements without an attorney.

After taking Skipps into custody in the early morning hours of Jan. 10, Skipps spoke to detectives in two sessions totaling about 45 minutes. Detectives challenged Skipps’ denials of being at the scene of the shootings in a church parking lot, and he answered, “He tried to rob me. I got in his car to buy something from him, and he tried to rob me. He tried to pull me out of his car, and I got scared. I didn’t know what to do. And at this point, I’d like to have a lawyer present.”

After a break, detectives told Skipps they were getting a warrant to take his clothes, a DNA sample and a blood draw. Skipps asked, “What is all this for,” and detectives told him they could not answer his questions unless he waived his Miranda rights again.

Skipps soon said he wanted to talk to the officers, at one point asking, “Am I going to prison?” According to the court record, they then discussed his claim of self-defense, his disposal of the gun, the drug transaction and the shooting. Swenson had argued that no second waiver of his Miranda rights was made, so the evidence should be thrown out.

But Neider disagreed and said the detectives “employed no psychological techniques to trick him or made any false statements to him.”

Skipps, the judge said, “was aware and conscious enough to try to mislead investigators with different stories of his actions. By all objective measures, (Skipps) made a voluntary decision to engage the detectives in further discussion after he had invoked, and been reminded several times, his right to an attorney and then agreed to waive that right to continue talking with the detectives.”

She said Skipps “initiated the conversation where incriminating statements were eventually made. … The officers allowed the defendant to keep talking and capitalized on his willingness to talk, but they did not overcome his free will or put pressure on him, and they let the situation evolve.”

Neider set a pretrial hearing for Aug. 23.

Skipps is charged with first-degree felony aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder, also a first-degree felony. The Weber County Attorney’s Office said in July 2020 that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty in the case.

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