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Stanley says police tricked him

January 29, 2002

Stanley says police tricked him



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI
kimy@herald-mail.com


One of two men accused of beating a 76-year-old Clear Spring man to death told a Washington County Circuit Court judge Monday that police tricked him into talking about the murder after he had already refused on the advice of his attorney.

Saul Joseph Stanley, also known as Jeff Stanley, 22, testified before Judge Donald Beachley that he told Maryland State Police investigator Detective Sgt. Todd May he didn't want to talk about the specifics of the Dec. 5, 2000, murder of William Leonard Messersmith but would answer general questions about his own background.

"My attorney said to talk about nothing but he (May) said he didn't want to talk about the case. So, I didn't feel it would do any harm," said Stanley, who gave his family in the benches behind him a smile and brief wave upon entering the courtroom.

Defense Attorney Stephen Tully asked Beachley to suppress statements Stanley made during the January 2001 interview because his attorney at the time, Timothy Gordon, told police not to question him.

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Stanley turned himself in at Gordon's Hagerstown office and Hagerstown City Police picked him up.

Gordon testified that he did not accompany Stanley to the police station.

May's interview with Stanley started out with questions about his occupation and where he lived but kept returning to the murder, Stanley said.

"He said he wanted back history but he kept itching around," said Stanley who wore a black, double-breasted suit and a white shirt without a tie to his court appearance.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion argued that only Stanley could invoke his right not to speak to police without an attorney present.

She asked Stanley if he was uncomfortable during the interview, whether he had been threatened or been refused food or a restroom break.

He answered "no" to all of her questions.

When asked if he remembered signing the Miranda paperwork after it was explained to him by police, Stanley said he did, but added "I don't comprehend that lawyer stuff."

He testified that May was able to confuse him because he has just a seventh-grade education and can barely read or write.

May testified that he read the Miranda form to Stanley and felt he understood it despite his poor education and hearing loss in one ear.

Messersmith, who was known to keep large sums of money in his home, is believed to have hired Stanley and Liger Albert Grady, 19, of Martinsburg, W.Va., in the weeks before his death to do home-improvement work.

Authorities say when it came time to pay, the men killed Messersmith for the bag of money he had containing more than $40,000.

Stanley and Grady were charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, robbery, false imprisonment, felony theft and first-degree assault.

In August 2001, Grady pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Cirincion said following the hearing Monday that she wasn't sure when Beachley was expected to rule on the defense's request.

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