September 2, 2014
A Knoxville, Tennessee, man is asking a judge to suppress evidence in a Painesville Township murder case, claiming his arrest was unlawful.
Timothy Markel Gaston, 26, is accused of helping another man kill 23-year-old Matthew Hammond on July 26, 2013, at the victim’s Huntington Trailer Park home.
Hammond was found with a gunshot wound around 4 a.m. that day, and was pronounced dead at TriPoint Medical Center in Concord Township.
According to Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the two men forced their way into the mobile home, shot Hammond and fled the scene.
According to a motion filed earlier this month by defense attorney Randy Klammer, the arresting officers had no reasonable suspicion to arrest Gaston without a search warrant because there was no probable cause to believe criminal activity occurred.
“Because this was not an automobile stop, there are no exigent circumstances, there was no plain view, there was no hot pursuit, there was no … stop and frisk,” Klammer stated in the motion.
The alleged basis for the arrest was Gaston’s failure to register as a sex offender in Tennessee for an attempted rape charge from when he lived in Ohio as a juvenile in 2001.
However, Klammer said no juvenile court records exist that prove Gaston was convicted of anything other than juvenile delinquency.
“This is not an offense that requires sexual offender registration in Tennessee,” Klammer stated. “Nonetheless, the Tennessee officers determined that an arrest was appropriate for failure to register.” Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Paul Kaplan called the arrest perfectly legal.
Lake County Sheriff’s Capt. Ron Walters and Detective Brian Butler traveled to Tennessee in April after getting a lead that Gaston may have been staying in an apartment in Knoxville.
When Gaston’s information was run, Knoxville police said they discovered he had been convicted of a sex offense and had failed to register as an offender when he moved to Tennessee.
Under Tennessee law, police from that state and a U.S. Marshal task force arrested Gaston for failure to register.
Walters and Butler did not participate in his arrest, but Gaston agreed to speak with them about the murder investigation at the Knoxville Police Department, Kaplan said in his response to the motion to suppress filed Aug. 27.
During the interview, Gaston made a series of statements that led them to seek an arrest warrant for the murder through Painesville Municipal Court, said the prosecutor.
“Capt. Walters and Detective Butler are not, and did not act as, agents of the State of Tennessee, nor did they effect an arrest based upon any Tennessee law or warrant,” Kaplan stated. “… Any issues with the Defendant’s Tennessee arrest for failure to report have nothing to do with our Ohio case, aside from providing a factual background as to why the Defendant’s interview with Capt. Walters and Detective Butler took place in an interview room at the Knoxville, Tennessee Police Department. As such, there is no need for this Court to even consider … whether Ohio law can be properly applied to the actions of Tennessee officials.”
Gaston remains in Lake County Jail on $1 million bond. He faces life in prison if convicted of 15 counts — aggravated murder, two counts of murder, three counts of kidnapping, two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of burglary, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of robbery and two counts of felonious assault.
He attended Harvey High School in Painesville, but graduated from Christian Academy of Knoxville.
The case is assigned to Lake County Common Pleas Judge Vincent A. Culotta.
Meanwhile, Marshaun Ligon, a 21-year-old Painesville man, was declared a “person of interest” in the homicide case in April, but has not been charged in Hammond’s death.