CROWN POINT — A defense attorney for a man accused of strangling a local radio personality and her daughter in 2016 has filed a motion seeking to suppress video evidence showing him at the victims' residence.
James A. Lohnes, 49, was arrested in Ohio nearly a week after Velia "Val" Taneff, 86, and her daughter Lana Taneff, 63, were found strangled to death Jan. 17, 2016, at Velia Taneff's Calumet Township property.
Mark Chargualaf, an attorney for Lohnes, filed a motion last week seeking to suppress a video police say shows the Taneff property in the 2300 block of West 44th Avenue on Jan. 16 and 17, 2016.
According to court records, the video shows Velia Taneff walking with Lohnes sometime after 4:27 p.m. Jan. 16, according to the affidavit. Lohnes is later seen by himself entering and exiting Taneff’s home and rental property.
Ohio State Police arrested Lohnes nearly a week later on the Ohio Turnpike near Montpelier, after a trooper saw him walking near Taneff's Cadillac as it was parked along the road. Lohnes told the trooper Taneff had gone to a gas station because they ran out of gas, court records say.
Chargualaf's motion says the DVR unit that captured the video was taken to the Gary Police Department. During an attempt to open the file, the unit stopped working because of a power surge or overload.
The unit was inspected by a third party and shipped to a data recovery specialist in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where the footage "was allegedly cloned," the motion says.
"No witness viewed the original, noncloned footage," Chargualaf wrote.
As a result, defense attorneys anticipate Lake County prosecutors will be unable to properly establish chain of custody for the video to be admitted as evidence at trial.
The video also is missing several time periods, "bringing into question its completeness and authenticity," the motion states.
Admission of the video as evidence would violate Lohnes' right to a fair trial and constitutional right to confront witnesses, Chargualaf wrote.
Prosecutors have not yet filed a response to the motion.
Nicholas Barnes, another attorney for Lohnes, said during a court hearing Aug. 22 that Lohnes had been deemed competent to stand trial.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas set a hearing for Oct. 4 on Lohnes' motion to suppress.
Lohnes is scheduled to stand trial starting Nov. 12.