West OC Murder Confession Stands

SNOW HILL – A Worcester County Circuit Court judge this week denied a motion to suppress the confession of the suspect in a West Ocean City murder in April, pointing out the sheer volume of the transcripts of the interrogation revealed a willingness of the suspect to talk about the crime.

Roberto Antonio Murillo, 28, of West Ocean City, remains behind bars without bail after being charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Cecilia Dea Parker, 56, in her home just a few doors down from his own residence on April 20. Murillo, clad in a dark suit and leg irons, appeared in Circuit Court this week for a pre-trial hearing on a motion to suppress the alleged confession he gave to detectives following his arrest the day after the discovery of the murder.

Tuesday’s motions hearing was essentially a carry over from a hearing earlier this month that ended when Judge Theodore Eschenberg sent prosecutors back to the drawing board to come back with an accurate transcript of the interrogation following Murillo’s arrest. At the end of the hearing on Tuesday, Eschenberg denied the motion to suppress the confession despite defense attorney E. Scott Collins’ claim his client did not consent to the questioning following his arrest in violation of his Miranda rights.

Murillo was officially indicted by a Worcester County grand jury on May 5. Murillo was quickly identified as the suspect in the murder in the otherwise quiet Mystic Harbor community in West Ocean City on April 20 and was taken into custody the next day and charged with first-degree murder. During an interview after being taken into custody, Murillo essentially confessed to the crime and provided detectives with a detailed account of his version of the hours leading up to the murder.

On Wednesday, Collins said the basic issue was whether Murillo “knowingly, willingly and intelligibly” waived his right to counsel prior to his investigation. He said the trooper who interrogated his client asked in rapid succession “do you want an attorney?” and “do you want to talk?” to which Murillo responded yes. However, Collins said the affirmative answer was mistakenly taken to mean yes, he wanted to talk and not yes, he wanted an attorney.

“The trooper asked at least two questions then entered immediately into the interrogation,” he said. “Nowhere in there is a clear, intelligible and willing waiver of his Miranda rights. When you are asked two questions in a row, you generally answer the first one. The trooper did not go back and clarify which question he wanted answered.”

Collins also questioned if his client was made aware of who was doing the interrogation prior to his alleged waiver of his rights. “When this trooper was brought up, he wasn’t identified as a homicide detective,” he said. “The other troopers told him to go in there and get a confession.”

Eschenberg agreed it was unclear in the transcripts whether Murillo actually answered yes when asked if he wanted to talk, citing a difficulty with the recording. He agreed the recording of the interrogation was ‘not the model of clarity,” and that the tape recorder was not the best and sounded as if it were as far away as 15 feet. However, he said what came next in the transcripts clearly indicated Murillo wanted to talk.

“We all agree at the time of the magical question it was inaudible because of shuffling of papers near the microphone, but he said he wanted to talk at least a dozen times throughout the transcript,” he said.

However, Collins said investigators disregarded Murillo’s lack of assent on the question of whether he wanted to talk or not in order to move forward with their line of questioning.

“Clearly there was an effort to blow a lot of things past him quickly,” he said. “The trooper went right into the questions about the incident.”

At that point, Worcester County State’s Attorney Joel Todd pointed out Murillo signed a form prior to the interrogation written in Spanish in which he waived his right to counsel before being questioned. He said the signed form shows Murillo’s testimony was credible and was reason enough for dismissing the motion to suppress the confession.

After considerable discussion, Eschenberg denied the motion to suppress, pointing out Murillo appears to be an adult capable of making rational decisions despite the obvious language barrier.

“He’s in his late 20s, he seems to be of average intelligence and we know he graduated from high school,” he said. “He’s not a youngster. He knows what he is doing.”

Eschenberg said the sheer bulk of the transcripts, which numbered 186 pages, was enough to illustrate Murillo’s willingness to talk to the detectives.

“Nobody who reads this transcript could believe he didn’t want to talk,” he said. “This is the longest statement I’ve ever read in all my years on this bench. The defendant not only wanted to talk, he was eager to talk. He talked and talked and talked some more. This transcript is almost 200 pages long.”

Eschenberg further stated Murillo laid out his story fully understanding his rights. “He wasn’t threatened and he wasn’t promised anything,” he said. “He was given his rights, understood his rights and was very eager to talk.”