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United States v. Youngbear

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

November 25, 2014



JON STUART SCOLES, Magistrate Judge.


On the 10th day of November 2014, this matter came on for hearing on the Motion to Suppress (docket number 27) filed by the Defendant on October 14, 2014. The Government was represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Peter E. Deegan, Jr. and Anthony Morfitt. Defendant Jonathan Curtis Youngbear appeared in person and was represented by his attorneys, Diane Z. Helphrey and Timothy S. Ross-Boon.


On April 23, 2014, Defendant Jonathan Curtis Youngbear was charged by Indictment with first degree murder in Indian country. Defendant appeared on April 25 and entered a plea of not guilty. Trial was scheduled before Chief Judge Linda R. Reade on June 23, 2014. Due to the complex nature of the case, however, trial was continued on Defendant's motion to February 23, 2015.

On October 14, 2014, Defendant timely filed the instant motion to suppress. The Government filed its resistance on October 31.


A. 911 Call

At approximately 4:52 p.m. on February 24, 2014, the Tama County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call from Danielle Davenport, requesting an ambulance.[1] Davenport reported that "somebody's been stabbed." In response to questioning by the dispatcher, Davenport identified Severn Jefferson as the person who had been stabbed, and Jonathan Youngbear as the person who stabbed him. Davenport obtained the information from Joseph Youngbear, who had run from Jonathan Youngbear's house to Davenport's house next door. Joseph reported that Jefferson had been stabbed in the chest. Joseph also reported that Jonathan was still in the house. In subsequent calls, apparently made by the dispatcher to Davenport's house on the non-emergency line, it was reported that Jonathan had a rifle in the house.

B. Officers Respond to the Scene

Jason Dunagan, who at that time was assistant chief of the Meskwaki Nation Police Department, testified he was at the station and off-duty when the call came in. Also present at that time was Lieutenant Shimon. Dunagan and Shimon then proceeded to the scene in Shimon's vehicle. On the way to the scene, Dunagan was advised by dispatch that the suspect was in the house with the victim and had access to a rifle. Dunagan asked the Sheriff's Office to "send everybody, " and several law enforcement agencies responded.

When the officers arrived on the scene, they "staged" some distance from the house until the nature of the threat could be determined. Daniel Quigley, a sergeant with the Toledo Police Department, was called to act as a "negotiator." Quigley previously worked as an officer at the Meskwaki Nation Police Department for two years and has specialized training regarding crisis and hostage negotiations. Quigley testified that as he approached the scene from the east, he was flagged down by neighbors, who advised him the subject inside the house had called his father and was coming out. As Quigley exited his patrol vehicle, he saw Defendant coming out of the house with his hands up.

Sergeant Quigley asked Defendant his name and he responded "Jonathan Youngbear." In response to a question, Defendant was he was not injured. When asked if anyone else was inside the house, Defendant said there was not. Quigley testified that there was dried blood on Defendant's hands and, as Quigley approached the house, he could see what appeared to be fresh bloody footprints in the snow. Assistant Chief Dunagan, who followed Quigley into the driveway, testified that when Defendant initially said there was no one in the house, Dunagan asked him again and Defendant said "two." Dunagan also testified that he saw bloody footprints on the porch where Defendant had exited the house.

C. Officers Enter the House

Assistant Chief Dunagan, Sergeant Quigley, and two or three other officers then entered the house. According to Dunagan, when he "swept" the kitchen and living room, he could see a body at the far end of the hallway. A rifle was found in the kitchen/living room area, and Dunagan handed it to a deputy on the porch due to safety concerns. The officers then "cleared" the rest of the house, looking for other persons. There was a curtain in the hallway near the body, which appeared to Dunagan to be moving. Dunagan was concerned that there might be someone hiding behind it. No other persons were found in the house.

Assistant Chief Dunagan testified that the body was covered in blood and it appeared there was a cut on the left side of the neck. Ambulance personnel were called in, but found no vital signs. After they "pronounced the body, " officers left the house. According to Dunagan, a search was not conducted at that time, but a long, bloody knife was seen in plain view on the kitchen floor. Officers did not disturb the knife before leaving the house.

D. Search Warrant

Special Agent-in-Charge Darrell Simmons and Special Agent Matt George of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation ("DCI") testified they were called regarding the incident while receiving training in Des Moines.[2] Simmons, George, and other DCI personnel then drove to Tama County and met with officers at the Meskwaki Nation Police Department. Simmons testified that the trip took longer than expected because of an active snow storm. At approximately 8:10 p.m., after being briefed on the circumstances, Simmons and George interviewed Joseph Youngbear.

Joseph Youngbear, who was Severn Jefferson's half-brother, told Special Agent Simmons that he had been drinking and using drugs with Defendant and Severn Jefferson at Defendant's house.[3] They were drinking rum and smoking methamphetamine. According to Joseph, there was an argument, Defendant went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and then came up behind Jefferson, who was sitting on a couch, and stabbed him in the chest.

Special Agent Simmons then prepared an application for a search warrant and presented it to a state court judge.[4] Simmons took the search warrant back to the Meskwaki Nation Police Department and assigned other officers to execute the warrant. Simmons and Special Agent George then went to the Tama County Jail to interview Defendant.

E. Defendant Transported to Tama County Sheriff's Office

Meanwhile, Defendant was transported to the Tama County Sheriff's Office at approximately 5:41 p.m. A log entry at 5:43 p.m. states that "subject is intoxicated and uncooperative."[5] Defendant arrived at the Sheriff's Office at 5:53 p.m.[6] When Defendant initially entered the booking room, his head was down and his hair was covering his eyes. Defendant appeared to be unsteady on his feet and was slurring his words. Initially, Defendant was loud, combative, and uncooperative. After a few minutes, however, Defendant calmed down and followed instructions to change into jail clothing. However, Defendant repeatedly asked "where is my brother?"

At 6:05 p.m., Defendant was instructed to sit back down, where he remained until he was taken to the interview room approximately 19 minutes later. Defendant fidgeted in the chair and repeatedly asked about his brother. When asked who his brother was, Defendant responded "Jared Michael Youngbear."[7] Defendant told sheriff's office personnel that his brother was a year younger and had recently joined the Army. At 6:09 p.m., Defendant asked "what happened to my brother" and said "he has nothing to do with this." Two minutes later, at 6:11 p.m., Defendant asked "can I write him a letter?" Defendant said that his brother was in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Defendant was given a paper and pencil, but stopped writing after less than a minute.

At 6:16 p.m., Defendant was whimpering and forcibly blowing air out his mouth. He again asked for a paper and pencil and started writing again. Defendant asked the "initials" for Georgia and Tennessee and repeated that his brother was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. During this time, Defendant appeared calm and did not appear to be slurring his words. Defendant stopped writing after about five minutes.

After the booking process was completed, Defendant was placed in an interview room at the Tama County Sheriff's Office at 6:24 p.m. It was a small room with a table and three chairs. For nearly the next six hours, Defendant remained in the room, with only minimal contact with law enforcement officers. A video recording of the Defendant waiting in the room was introduced as Government's Exhibit 3.

When he was placed in the room, Defendant was asked if he wanted water, and was then given a cup of water. Defendant was also given a paper and pencil to "finish writing a letter to your brother." After breathing heavily for a minute or two, Defendant spent approximately ten minutes reading and writing on the paper given to him, although it appears that he wrote very little. At 6:38 p.m., Defendant knocked on the table and a deputy came to the door and picked up the letter. Defendant then sat quietly for approximately four minutes, before laying his head down on the table at 6:42 p.m. Defendant did not stir again until 7:50 p.m. Defendant then got up, moved around for a few seconds, and sat back down, appearing to try to sleep. Defendant crossed his arms and tucked his hands inside the sleeves of his shirt, apparently because he was cold. Defendant then appears to fall back asleep.

At approximately 9:10 p.m., Defendant looks at his crotch and his pants appear to be wet. Apparently, Defendant either urinated in his clothing at that time, or discovered that he had urinated earlier. Defendant made no attempt to attract the attention of an officer, ask to use the bathroom, or report the wet clothing. At 10:11 p.m., Defendant knocked on the door and when a deputy answered, Defendant began crying. The deputy told Defendant to "sit down and relax" and that somebody would be coming to talk to him. The deputy left and Defendant stopped crying after about a minute. Defendant then placed his arms inside his shirt, apparently because he was cold. The video of Defendant alone in the interview room stops at 12:07 a.m. At that time, Defendant had been in the room for 5 hours and 43 minutes.[8]

F. Defendant Interviewed

At 12:15 a.m., Special Agent Simmons and Special Agent George entered the interview room.[9] Immediately upon entering the room, Simmons advised Defendant of his Miranda rights. Using a printed form, Simmons reviewed each of Defendant's rights, explained it to him, asked if he understood, and had him initial each right. Defendant notes that after he initialed paragraph 2, he started to initial paragraph 3 and it was necessary for Simmons to tell him to "hang on a second" so he could finish reading the paragraph. After being advised of his rights, Defendant told Simmons that he understood his rights and wished to talk with the agents. Defendant signed a written waiver of his Miranda rights at 12:19 a.m.[10]

Almost immediately after signing the written waiver, Defendant asked if he could have a long sleeve shirt or a blanket. Special Agent Simmons responded "absolutely, " and one was provided to him. Simmons then asked Defendant to provide identification information. Defendant stated his name, date of birth, and address, but did not know his social security number. Defendant did not immediately recall his cell phone number, but indicated that he "just got it." Defendant told Simmons that he was not working and not going to school.

Special Agent Simmons then asked Defendant about his activities during the days leading up to the incident. Defendant said that he had used methamphetamine on Saturday and early on Sunday. When asked when he last slept, Defendant said his "guesstimation would be about like maybe 36 hours, " but then indicated that "it's been like maybe three or four days since I've slept."[11] Defendant also said he went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of "Admiral Nelson." Joseph Youngbear came over late Saturday night and was there "pretty much the entire Sunday." Severn Jefferson also came over on Sunday. (The stabbing occurred in the late afternoon on Monday, February 24.)

Approximately 17 minutes into the interview, Special Agent Simmons asked "what else do you remember?" Defendant responded with a question: "I killed someone?" Simmons responded "what do you think" and Defendant said "yeah."[12] Simmons then asked for details regarding the events and Defendant made a number of incriminating statements. Among other things, Defendant states that after he "hit" the victim, he went next door to the home of his uncle, Ellsworth Youngbear. Ellsworth told Defendant that he was going to call the police and Defendant then went back to his own house. When he re-entered the house, he "freaked out" because "I just realized what I've done."[13] Defendant told Simmons that he tried to move the body down the hallway, but "he was too heavy for me to move around."[14]

Special Agent Simmons then asked a number of questions regarding what Defendant used to "hit him with" and the details regarding how he was hit. At times, Defendant stated that he did not remember the details, and initially told Simmons that he hit him with a hammer. However, when asked "could it have been something other than a hammer, " Defendant answered "probably." Defendant then described a black-handled steak knife obtained from the kitchen table. Later, Defendant said he could have hit him either with a hammer or a knife, and then suggested that he may have hit him with a gun.

Special Agent Simmons then asked about the positioning of Defendant and Jefferson when the assault occurred.

Simmons: Where is SEV when you hit him?
Youngbear: He's in the living room with me.
Simmons: Was he beside you, in front of you, where is he?
Youngbear: I think he is in front of me.
Simmons: K. Are you in the living room with them?
Youngbear: Yeah.
Simmons: So you hit him. Are you facing him?
Youngbear: Um...
Simmons: Or do you not know?
Youngbear: Yeah I was facing him I think.
Simmons: Could you have been beside him or behind him?
Youngbear: I think I was behind him actually. Yeah I think I was behind him.
Simmons: So where is he at when you're ...

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