Faulty search warrant leads to dismissal of murder charge

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A 2010 murder charge was dismissed against a man, who police say killed a Peralta woman, following an August opinion from the New Mexico Supreme Court that said law enforcement obtained a faulty search warrant.

The case against David Haidle was dismissed by the Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney's Office on Nov. 9 following the opinion issued by Justice Charles W. Daniels.

The opinion said the Valencia County Sheriff's Office used hearsay reports in the probable cause portion of the search warrant affidavit and deemed it invalid. The opinion said there wasn't adequate probable cause to execute a search warrant, and that carpet which contained the DNA of a deceased woman was unlawfully seized.

The evidence that was suppressed included DNA and blood stains that were found on Haidle's carpet.

Haidle was indicted by a Valencia County grand jury on one count of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in August 2010.

The case involves Haidle, an El Cerro Mission resident accused of killing Tiffany Lauer-Ventura, a transient who was alleged to have stolen from the man.

In January 2009, a couple collecting aluminum cans called police after they discovered a hand and foot sticking out from under a discarded mattress. The body was later determined to be that of Lauer-Ventura.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator determined Lauer-Ventura died from blunt force trauma to the head.

The samples of the carpet and flooring, which was sent to the New Mexico State Crime Lab, revealed a positive match of the blood found on the living room floor of Haidle to the DNA of Lauer-Ventura.

Daniels said the affidavit contains hearsay information from unnamed informants that said they indirectly heard that Haidle admitted he killed the woman before her body was found.

The case first went to the Valencia County District Court, where District Court Judge William Sanchez heard the appeal and partially denied Haidle's defense attorney's motion to suppress evidence.

"The case is complicated by the fact that the affidavit indicates multiple levels of hearsay from unidentified sources," the opinion says. "… These sources are not alleged to have heard the defendant's incriminating admission directly."

The complaint states the detective received information from a confidential source that Haidle had admitted to at least one person that "he had killed Tiffany Lauer-Ventura for stealing from him."

Daniels wrote in his opinion that there is no evidence that the woman stole from Haidle specifically, despite her reputation in the community for stealing from others.

He said the affidavit must show "a substantial basis for believing the source of the hearsay to be credible and for believing that there is a factual basis for the information to be furnished."

The fact that the affidavit lists the two sources as concerned citizens with no further explanation does not "provide the context needed for an issuing magistrate to make an informed and deliberate determination of probable cause."

Daniels said there was not enough corroboration from witnesses for deputies to rely on hearsay.

Haidle admitted to deputies the woman's blood may have been in his bathroom because he said she had used that location to shoot up heroin on at least one occasion. He said he paid Lauer-Ventura for sex multiple times.

Daniels said the fact that there could have been blood from the woman in the bathroom isn't evidence of a homicide, instead, it was evidence of a drug use.

The opinion said although the district court said the warrant was "faulty," the court said if the magistrate "had rejected the affidavit, the information could have been provided and the warrant could have been fixed."

The district court went on to say, "there was sufficient evidence, or at least some probable cause. It's just that the deputies didn't put it in the warrant. These officers could have secured a warrant later on down the road if they had done it properly."

But Daniels contends, a "we-could-have-done-it-lawfully-so-it-doesn't-matter" view is wrong, and that probable cause must be found within the affidavit submitted in the search warrant, not in what the affidavit "could have" contained.

The opinion said, "the court cannot excuse an unlawful search in violation of the constitutional rights of any citizen when police could have performed a lawful search, but failed to do so."

Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard said his department will look into the matter to see what specifically could have been handled better.

"We will have to go through some internal stuff to see what occurred there," Burkhard said.

In order to pursue new charges in the case, the prosecution must have evidence that points directly to Haidle.

Assistant District Attorney Bryan McKay said for now, the case is dismissed.

"The dismissal speaks for itself as to where we are at this point," McKay said.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.