Police had reasonable suspicion to arrest a man suspected in the fatal overdose of a Bowling Green woman, a federal judge has determined.
Damone Bell, 23, is charged with distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.
Federal prosecutors are seeking to hold Bell responsible for the July 30, 2018, death of Kaitlin McKinney, 23, of Bowling Green, who suffered an overdose.
Investigators were led to Bell when McKinney’s boyfriend, Logan Cesler, told police he purchased the drugs that led to the overdose, provided officers with a cellphone number tied to Bell and identified him in a photo lineup of six people.
Law enforcement had Cesler arrange a second drug deal with Bell through text messages, resulting in Bell’s arrest the day after McKinney’s overdose.
Attorney Patrick Bouldin, the federal public defender representing Bell, moved to suppress the evidence that police seized from Bell’s car and the statements he provided to police in custody.
In a ruling Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brent Brennenstuhl found that police had reasonable suspicion to arrest Bell, citing the investigation that included reviewing security footage of the convenience store parking lot where the drug deal took place and text exchanges between Cesler and Bell.
Special Agent David Hayes of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified at a June hearing that police at the traffic stop detected an odor of marijuana from Bell’s car, and a police K-9 alerted on the presence of suspected marijuana and heroin in the vehicle.
Brennenstuhl found that police had probable cause to search the vehicle, and the arrest was justified.
Bouldin argued in his motion that the photo lineup violated Bell’s due process rights, but Brennenstuhl found that the lineup presented to Cesler did not unduly steer him toward identifying Bell as the suspect.
“The totality of the circumstances indicate that Cesler’s identification of Bell was reliable,” Brennenstuhl said in his written opinion. “Cesler was in close proximity to Bell twice on July 30: once when he was allegedly approached by Bell and received his phone number and again when he purchased the heroin in the passenger seat of Bell’s car. Such close proximity provided ample opportunity for Cesler to obtain a clear view of Bell.”
Brennenstuhl did recommend that a portion of Bell’s police interview be suppressed, determining that Bell invoked his right to remain silent in response to a question from Hayes about who he intended to sell heroin to that day.
Hayes continued to interview Bell until he invoked his right to remain silent a second time, court records show.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.