FLORENCE — The attorney for a man accused of being involved with the 2016 death of an Apache Junction couple is trying to get some of the evidence against his client excluded from the case.
In 2016, Keith Long and Renae Gardner were shot and killed while they were sleeping in their home in a mobile home park in Apache Junction. Long’s body was found in a canal in San Tan Valley. Gardner’s body was found along Beeline Highway, State Route 87 between Phoenix and Payson.
Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Clint Wendelschafer, 34, of Tempe, Nicholas Douglas, 45, of San Tan Valley and Demian Blu, 42, of Apache Junction in connection with the case.
According to Pinal County Superior Court records, Christopher Doran and Josh Wallace, the attorneys for Blu, have filed motions to suppress evidence gathered during an interview Blu had with Apache Junction Police and evidence gathered when police seized Blu’s car. Doran also asked the judge to prevent prosecutors from presenting information to the jury about a fight Blu and Steven Sain had with Taylor Graham while all three were being held in the county jail.
Blu is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of concealing or abandoning a dead body and participating in a street gang.
In his motion to suppress the evidence gathered during Blu’s interview with Apache Junction Police, Wallace claims that Blu was arrested by officers without a warrant and without probable cause while he was walking to the police station and that he was not read his Miranda rights or advised he could have his attorney present before the interview began. His body was also searched without officers having probable cause or a warrant.
In their response, prosecutors deny Wallace's claims. They state that Blu volunteered to come to the station after officers contacted him and asked him if he had any information on the whereabouts of Gardner. Officers spotted Blu walking toward the station and offered him a lift in a patrol vehicle, which he allegedly accepted.
Prosecutors point out that Blu was not under arrest at the time and was not placed in handcuffs during the interview. Officers were only interested in any information he might have on the case.
Officers only searched him to make sure he was not carrying any weapons. He was placed in an interrogation room because that was the room most conducive to holding and recording an interview, prosecutors state in their response.
It was only after officers thought Blu might be lying and started asking pointed questions that Blu requested his attorney, according to prosecutors. At that point, officers read Blu his Miranda rights and when Blu declined to speak without his attorney present, officers ended the interview and took him into custody.
Prosecutors also point out that Blu was not charged with the murders until 2018. He was originally charged in 2016 with theft of a means of transportation, hindering prosecution, burglary and abandonment/concealment of a dead body.
Blu was allegedly brought to the attention of police after he was allegedly seen posting pictures of himself riding Long’s motorcycle on social media.
Prosecutors also objected to the request to suppress the seizure and search of Blu’s car. Wallace claimed that officers seized the car without a warrant.
According to prosecutors, officers were concerned because they couldn’t locate Blu and thought that there might be evidence in Blu’s car, so they had the vehicle towed for safekeeping. Once the vehicle was towed, the officer requested and got a warrant to seize and search the vehicle.
Officers searched the vehicle the day after the warrant was acquired, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors also pointed out that vehicles fall under different seizure rules than homes. Vehicles are mobile and can be searched if there is probable cause to believe there might be evidence of a crime or contraband within a vehicle.
Doran also asked the judge to prevent prosecutors from presenting any evidence of a fight Blu had in the jail because a jury might think that his client is a bad person because he got into a fight in the jail. According to court records, while being held in the Pinal County jail on various charges, Blu, Sain and Graham allegedly got into a fight.
Superior Court Judge Robert Carter Olson has yet to rule on the motions.