A Faulkner County judge has denied a 57-year-old murder suspect's request to suppress statements he made during his 2016 arrest.
Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. first heard arguments regarding the request in September. During an afternoon pretrial hearing Wednesday, he denied a motion to suppress statements Attorney Thomas Scott Brisendine filed on capital murder suspect Scotty Ray Gardner's behalf.
Gardner, who is accused of killing Susan "Heather" Stubbs on March 6, 2016, after a hotel clerk found her lying facedown in Room 114 of Days Inn on Oak Street. When police arrived, she was found strangled to death from a cord.
Brisendine said during the September motion hearing that Gardner’s statements should not be allowed as evidence because a Conway Police Department detective “continued asking questions after [Gardner] requested a lawyer.”
Sgt. Melissa Smith questioned Gardner following his arrest at the Garland County Sheriff’s Office and, upon Gardner’s request for a second conversation with Smith, at the Faulkner County Detention Center Unit II.
Smith said she does not feel she impeded on Gardener’s rights, noting she stopped all questions pertaining to Gardner’s guilt in Stubbs’ death after he mentioned wanting a lawyer.
Brisendine said all statements Gardner made during this interview should be thrown out as far as evidence exposed to the jury during trial because Smith continued speaking with Gardner after his request.
Clawson ultimately struck down the defense's request on Wednesday.
Clawson also gave prosecutors the OK to include victim impact statements during the sentencing phase of Gardner's trial.
Brisendine and Katherine S. Streett, who also represents Gardner, have previously addressed their concerns about victim impact statements, cautioning that statements could become redundant and only inflame the jury.
In his ruling, Clawson said prosecutors are permitted to use victim impact witnesses "that are necessary to the penalty phase" and "do not become redundant or repetitive."
According to a probable cause affidavit, Gardner, who faces the death penalty in this case, told prosecutors that anger and jealousy caused him to snap the day he allegedly killed Stubbs.
The two had been staying in Room 114 since Feb. 21 and Gardner said he became upset when he noticed Stubbs talking to other men walking past their room on March 6.
Gardner told officers he was still upset with Stubbs from a previous incident, “but had been trying to forgive her for it until this new incident happened,” referencing a Dec. 19 incident where Stubbs filed a third-degree battery report against him.
“He said he knew that he could not just grab her and throw her on the bed because she would go and tell on him. He said everything just kept building up and he had just snapped. Scotty said the only thing he knew was that he ‘was not going to let Heather go tell the police nothing,’” the affidavit reads.
At one point during the heated argument, Gardner “eventually grabbed a nearby cord and ‘wrapped it around her neck’” when she tried to scratch him in defense, according to the affidavit.
“I might have killed her... I don’t know,” he said, adding he then left to go gambling to avoid thinking about the situation.
Gardner is set to stand trial regarding the aforementioned case from Aug. 14-25 in Faulkner County Circuit Court.