Suspect in slaying wants statements excluded

2013-10-18T14:00:00Z 2013-10-19T22:14:25Z Suspect in slaying wants statements excludedStan Maddux Times Correspondent
October 18, 2013 2:00 pm  • 

LAPORTE | Attorneys for the defendant in the 1993 homicide of a LaPorte teenager are asking the court to exclude a statement he made to police as a juvenile when questioned about the killing.

The request was made Friday during an omnibus hearing for the suspect, Jason Tibbs, 38, in LaPorte Circuit Court attended by many family members and supporters of the victim, Rayna Rison.

Defense attorney John Tompkins, of Indianapolis, said Tibbs was picked up for questioning shortly after Rison disappeared.

He said the statement was given without permission to question him first being sought from a parent, guardian or legal counsel.

Another defense attorney, Scott Pejic, of Michigan City, said under Indiana law, juveniles have a right to "meaningful consultation with a parent or guardian" before giving any statements to police.

Tibbs was charged in August with allegations that he strangled Rayna, whom he had previously dated, during an alleged argument over getting back together.

The defense would not reveal the contents of the statement to avoid tainting prospective jurors or say if the statement was potentially incriminating.

Tompkins said that the statement apparently wasn't enough for him to be arrested at the time.

Tompkins said Rison's brother-in-law, Ray McCarty, was later indicted for the murder. Eventually, the charge against McCarty was dismissed with lack of sufficient evidence cited by the prosecution.

"He was not arrested for 20 years after he made the statement, so it doesn't seem like it was very incriminating to the police at the time," Tompkins said.

LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi said if Tibbs was interviewed as a witness, prior consent was not required. He wasn't sure whether Tibbs was questioned years ago as a witness or actual suspect.

Judge Tom Alevizos set a hearing for Nov. 13 to decide whether to exclude the statement.

Alevizos denied a motion to set bond in the case and ordered prosecutors to turn over all of its evidence by next week.

Pejic said all of the evidence was supposed to be turned over before Friday's hearing but only about 10 percent of the data has been released to the defense.

"There is a lot more," Pejic said.

The defense also filed a motion to prepare for a possible request to dismiss the case, saying among other things a major break for police came from Rickey Hammons, who is in prison serving time for murder.

Hammons told authorities while incarcerated in 2008 that, back in 1993, he was hiding in a barn when he saw Tibbs and Eric Freeman drive in and pop the lid on the trunk. Inside the trunk was Rison's body.

Freeman told police a few months ago that he had witnessed Tibbs strangle Rison.

The defense questioned the credibility of those statements because Freeman was given immunity from prosecution and speculated that Hammons came forward with his testimony to possibly get a reduction in his sentence or receive some other favor.

"His motives are unclear. We don't know what, if anything, he wants for cooperation," Tompkins said.

Rison's younger sister, Wendy Hakes, said it was emotional seeing Tibbs in the courtroom, and she's nervous about what her family might have to endure if the case goes to trial.

"Whatever it takes to get the justice for Rayna and as long as it comes out for the positive for her is what we'll have to sit through," Hakes said.

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