LIMESTONE, Maine — A local teenager who is accused of manslaughter in connection with the death of his 3-month-old daughter in 2009 is seeking to have statements he made to Maine State Police detectives suppressed.
A court hearing on the matter will take place later this month in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou, Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said Monday.
Nicklas Jones of Limestone was 17 when he allegedly threw his daughter, Joselyn Jones, toward her crib to stop her from crying. The baby missed the crib, hit her head and died within a week from the injuries, according to police.
After a two-day hearing last May, a judge determined that Jones, now 18, would be tried as an adult rather than as a juvenile.
Jones was indicted by the Aroostook County grand jury last July and has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge.
According to court documents, Jones was living with the 18-year-old mother of the baby when he changed a crying Joselyn Jones and tried to give her a bottle. He grew frustrated when she wouldn’t take it and allegedly threw her toward the crib.
Jones was arrested on May 1, 2009, and pleaded not guilty to a charge of manslaughter in Caribou District Court shortly afterward. He was held at Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston for more than a year until it was determined in May 2010 that he would be tried as an adult. He is now free on bail.
Court documents revealed that Jones’ new attorney, Matthew Hunter of Presque Isle, is arguing that all of the statements that Nicklas Jones made to detectives during three interviews in the days after the incident should be suppressed on the grounds that each of the interviews amounted to custodial interrogation without Jones having been read his Miranda rights and that his statements in each of the interviews were involuntary under both state and federal law. He also argues that during the final interview, conducted on May 1, 2009, Jones invoked his right to counsel and that state police detectives failed to honor the request.
Hunter said in court documents that Jones did not believe he was free to leave while those three interviews with police were going on and that he also was not explained his Miranda rights during those three interviews.
Benson contended in court documents that all of the claims are without merit. He said state police Detective Dale Keegan did not read Jones his Miranda rights during the first interview, which took place just after the baby was brought to a Caribou hospital for treatment, because Jones was not in custody, was not physically restrained and was free to leave. There was no probable cause to arrest or charge Jones at the time, according to Benson.
Benson said Jones’ mother, Jerene Rosenbrook, was present, but Hunter denies this in court documents.
The second interview took place in Jones’ home, and Benson said that Keegan again did not read him his Miranda rights because he was not in custody.
The third interview took place on May 1, 2009, at the state police barracks in Houlton. Benson said that Keegan and state police Detective Josh Haines told Jones and his mother that Jones was not under arrest and that neither mother nor son had to talk to the detectives if they preferred not to. Both left the room at some point, and court documents say that Rosenbrook returned to the room and told detectives that her son had admitted to her that he had caused Joselyn’s death, and that he had thrown the child out of frustration. Keegan again reminded Rosenbrook that Jones was not under arrest, according to court documents.
Jones and Rosenbrook returned to the room together, and Benson said detectives reminded them that they didn’t have to speak and were not under arrest and could leave. Benson said Keegan did not read Jones his Miranda rights during the third interview because it was clear that Jones was never in custody.
Jones then made an incriminating statement, according to the documents.
Both Jones and Rosenbrook left the barracks after that interview. Benson said that before Jones making the incriminatory statement, both Rosenbrook and Jones agreed that they had returned to the interview room freely to speak with detectives and that the detectives had not asked the mother and son to talk to them again.
Anthony Trask, a Presque Isle attorney who had represented Jones, relocated to southern Maine last year and said he could no longer represent the teenager. Hunter is Jones’ new attorney.
Benson said Monday that after the suppression hearing is held later this month, a trial could take place in September, but no official date has been set.