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Griffith loses his bid to squelch statement

BY ANDREA MOORE amoore@paducahsun.com

Comments made by a Reidland man to investigators of his wife's death can be used in court. 

McCracken Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach signed an order denying Keith Griffith's suppression motion Thursday.

Griffith, 55, is facing charges of murder, first-degree arson, tampering with physical evidence and second-degree animal cruelty after his Reidland home burned and his wife of 36 years, Julie Griffith, was found dead inside with gunshot wounds.

Griffith's attorney, Mark Bryant, represented him during a hearing on the motion July 28 and later filed a brief in support of the motion to suppress.

In the brief, Bryant argued that Griffith's statements was not read his Miranda rights and he was lured to the sheriff's office by Coroner Dan Sims under the assumption that he was going to the office for an explanation of the fire investigation's progress.

Bryant stated that when Griffith arrived at the sheriff's office to see Sims, Griffith and friend Murray Looper were met by Deputy Coroner Ryan Johnson, who told Looper that they only needed Griffith.

Bryant argued that Griffith had to spend 45 minutes in a waiting area and then was put in a small interrogation cell with an automatically locking door and interrogated by Detective Sgt. Matt Carter and Johnson. Bryant stated there were no questions related to the Griffith home and that Griffith was lured on a false pretense or simply deceived.

Kaltenbach determined that Sims asked Griffith if he would come to the office to speak with them but he did not tell Griffith a specific office.  Kaltenbach also found that while Griffith was placed into an interview room about 10 feet by 8 feet wide he was not searched or placed in handcuffs and Johnson and Carter did not take anything from Griffith and did not conduct a pat-down.  

Kaltenbach additionally found that the door to the interview room did automatically lock but that Griffith and Carter left the interview room to look for a handgun in his truck that he drove to the sheriff's department and that Griffith left with Johnson to go to his truck to get a charger for his phone. 

He went on to find that Carter asked to look through Griffith's phone.

The judge wrote that Carter told Griffith that he would like to keep the clothes Griffith was wearing with his permission but allowed Looper to bring Griffith a change of clothes. 

Kaltenbach added at the end of his findings that for the last hour and a half of the interview, the door to the interview room was not locked and Griffith was left alone in the room for a time.

The judge concluded that a reasonable person would have felt free to leave and because Griffith was not in custody, the officers did not have to read him his Miranda warnings.  

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Raymond McGee said that he expected the motion to be denied.

"We were confident that the sheriff's department conducted a lawful and proper interview," McGee said.

A trial date of Feb. 2 has been set.  Griffith's bond remains $1 million.

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