VALPARAISO — The Porter County prosecutor's office had no idea Chesterton police were interrogating a suspect in a 2017 murder case until after the damage that resulted in the alleged confession being tossed out was done, according to one of the lead prosecutors.
"At no time would we have condoned the manner in which the interrogation took place, had we been brought in on the fact that one was even taking place," said Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek.
Polarek voiced her frustration after learning that the Indiana Supreme Court announced late Thursday that it had denied a request by prosecutors to consider reversing a state appellate court ruling that threw out the confession because Chesterton police ignored the accused, Christopher Dillard's, repeated requests for an attorney.
Polarek said she was not notified until the 12-plus-hour interrogation was complete and police were seeking a search warrant for Dillard's clothing.
Chesterton Police Chief David Cincoski declined comment Friday.
Dillard has pleaded not guilty to murdering Nicole Gland, 23, of Portage, on April 19, 2017 by stabbing her in her vehicle in a parking area behind the former Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road, in Chesterton.
Republican Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel, who leaves office at year's end following last month's election defeat to Democrat Gary Germann, said the loss of the alleged confession will not derail the efforts of his office.
"There is sufficient evidence aside from statements made at the Chesterton Police Department to move forward with the prosecution," he said.
Defense attorney Bob Harper, who is representing Dillard, said the appellate court ruling, "upholds basic constitutional principles. To rule otherwise, the courts would be telling law enforcement that it is all right to take someone in custody without a warrant, hold them for 11-12 hours without being able to call family or an attorney, deprive them of their medicine after several requests and continue questioning after repeated requests to talk to an attorney."
'I killed that girl'
The request before the Supreme Court was filed by the Indiana attorney general's office and argued that statements made by 52-year Dillard to his girlfriend at the Chesterton Police Department were not in violation of his Miranda rights and were not involuntary.
"Because Dillard had requested to speak to Beverly (Galle), his statements to her were admissible," according to the petition to transfer. "The fact that Dillard never waived his rights to counsel did not mean that the police were prohibited from allowing Dillard to speak to Beverly or that conversation between Dillard and Beverly amounted to police interrogation."
Harper argued that the appellate court ruling was thorough.
Dillard, who was picked up by police the same day of the killing, told his girlfriend while at the Chesterton Police Department, "I killed that girl. I didn't mean to," according to the charging information.
"He indicated to her that the drugs had a hold of him," police have said.
The Indiana Appellate Court tossed out the confession, saying that police ignored the man's repeated requests for an attorney. Dillard requested an attorney three times during the nearly 11 hours he was held in a small interrogation room at the Chesterton Police Department, the court said in its 27-page ruling.
He was also denied repeated requests for medications and was questioned, in part, while lying face down on the floor trying to rest, the court said.
"Even if we were to conclude that he initiated further communication leading to his incriminating statements, Dillard never knowingly or voluntarily waived his right to counsel based on the jarring totality of the circumstances outlined above," the appellate court ruled.
The attorney general's office argued, "There is no dispute on appeal that after Dillard invoked his right to counsel any statements he made to law enforcement thereafter were not admissible at trial unless Dillard reinitiated the conversation with police."
But police are not prohibited from allowing suspects to speak with family and friends, according to the transfer request. The appellate court was incorrect in assuming Chesterton Police Chief David Cincoski should have known the conversation between Dillard and his girlfriend would result in incriminating evidence considering the chief informed them the room was being recorded.
"Rather, the officer would have reasonably assumed just the opposite," according to the attorney general's filing.
The petition further argued that police did not coerce Dillard into talking to his girlfriend and that he requested the meeting.
"Dillard was self-assured and confident," according to the transfer petition, "and he declined to answer questions about matters that he did not want to talk about."
Harper expects a status hearing to be set in the case to determine the next step.