Judge OKs use of DNA, statements in Lewiston attempted murder trial

Posted July 24, 2013, at 6:28 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — A judge sided largely with prosecutors on a flurry of motions heard three weeks prior to a Lewiston man’s scheduled trial on aggravated attempted murder and other related charges in the 2011 stabbing of a Lewiston woman in her apartment.

Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford ruled Monday that statements made to police by Cleveland Cruthirds, 26, and his property seized by them will be admissible at his trial, scheduled to start Aug. 12 at Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Clifford also ruled that DNA evidence gathered at the crime scene and from Cruthirds’ clothing will be allowed at trial despite Cruthirds’ contention that cross-contamination had occurred during DNA evidence collection.

The defense had hoped the court would impose sanctions on prosecutors for several actions, including destroying some clothing gathered in the case, but Clifford imposed no sanctions.

On Tuesday, Clifford decided to permit at trial statements — called excited utterances — made to a neighbor by Karie Lessard, who was at Naomi Swift’s apartment shortly before she was stabbed.

Lessard testified under oath Tuesday that she couldn’t remember events the day of the stabbing and didn’t remember an interview an hour later with Lewiston Police Detective Lee Jones.

Even after viewing a videotaped portion of that interview, Lessard said she had no recollection of it. During questioning by Clifford, Lessard said she wasn’t sure whether she was truthful during the interview with Jones.

Clifford said he would rule later on whether Lessard’s videotaped interview can be shown at trial.

The defense is expected before trial to seek to block the playing of a 911 recording of Swift’s call to a dispatcher shortly before and during the stabbing.

Clifford also ruled Tuesday that blood found on a knife about half a mile from the crime scene a day after the stabbing should be tested for a match in the national DNA data bank.

Cruthirds was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury last year on charges of attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and burglary, all in connection with the stabbing of Swift, his sometime-girlfriend at the time.

According to court records, Cruthirds attacked Swift with a knife, stabbing her repeatedly in the head, torso and arms. At the time, Cruthirds was out on bail on a domestic violence charge and was prohibited from having contact with Swift.

Several days after the attack, Swift spoke with the Sun Journal, describing the attack in her Blake Street apartment.

According to Swift, she had been sitting in her apartment with another woman when Cruthirds broke down the door to the apartment and the one to her bedroom. He was in a rage, Swift said, because she had been talking on the phone to her husband, who is in prison.

According to police, Cruthirds was also angry because Swift had been talking to her ex-boyfriend online. In a 911 call, a man can be heard shouting, “You cheated on me,” as Swift tries to explain her plight to an emergency dispatcher.

Swift was treated at Central Maine Medical Center for several days after the attack for more than two dozen stab wounds.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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