Judge orders more briefs before ruling on motion to suppress key evidence in St. Croix murder trial

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ST. CROIX - District Judge Wilma Lewis has issued an order requesting supplemental briefs be submitted regarding a defense motion attempting to suppress key evidence in the federal court case against Elvin Wrensford and Craig Muller, charged in the 2012 shooting death of Gilbert Hendricks Jr.

Lewis' order comes after a daylong hearing in District Court on Friday about the matter.

In her order, Lewis said upon consideration of the motion to suppress evidence in the case, she is ordering Wrensford's attorney, Omodare Jupiter, to submit supplemental briefings - additional written arguments - by Friday and the prosecution to submit their briefing by Jan. 31.

Once the prosecution has filed its additional arguments, Lewis said Wrensford's attorney must file a reply brief within seven days.

She said because Muller has joined in the motion to suppress, if his attorney, Martial Webster, wishes to file briefs, he should do so pursuant to the same filing scheduled that Wrensford is ordered to follow.

Wrensford filed a motion in November asking the court to exclude all incriminating evidence collected in the matter.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alphonso Andrews submitted written opposition to the motion last month, which prompted Friday's hearing, which went well into the night past 9 p.m.

During the hearing, Andrews presented law enforcement officers who were involved in the preliminary investigation, Wrensford's detention and arrest.

After hearing all testimony and arguments in the case, Lewis was expected to issue a ruling, but she now has asked for the additional briefings.

Hendricks was gunned down in a drive-by shooting just after 8 p.m. May 10, 2012, near Gold Coast Cabinets and Food Town Supermarket on Northside Road in La Grande Princesse.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to federal charges of possession of a firearm in a school zone; possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number; using a firearm during a violent crime; and first-degree murder in the shooting death. They are being held without bail.

According to the suppression motion argued Friday, Wrensford asked to suppress all evidence seized from his person, including an insurance card and keys. He also asked the court to suppress a statement law enforcement officials said he made after being detained, on the grounds that he did not waive his rights to remain silent.

Wrensford also wants to suppress the DNA swab taken from him after his arrest.

Jupiter argued that they believe that all physical evidence obtained by law enforcement was in violation of Wrensford's Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure.

In his response, Andrews said the stop-and-search was justified by reasonable suspicion. He said V.I. Police Detective Leon Cruz reasonably thought he was dealing with an armed and dangerous individual who may have been involved in a recent shooting incident. Andrews argued that despite Wrensford's claims that statements were taken from him without his being fully advised of his Miranda rights, Detective Richard Matthew testified that Wrensford was advised of his Miranda warnings prior to his statement being taken.

According to the affidavit filed by Matthews, just after 8 p.m. May 10, police responding to a call found Hendricks in a grassy area suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, including two shots to the head.

Witnesses told police that Hendricks was walking on the sidewalk when a red truck drove up and the passenger, who police believe to be Wrensford, began firing shots at him.

Witnesses said Hendricks began to run from the gunfire, but the occupants of the truck cut him off and fired additional shots, knocking him to the ground.

Police later saw Wrensford running in La Grande Princesse and detained him. Keys in his pocket were for an abandoned truck that matched the description of the one used in the shooting.

Muller was arrested days later after he left the territory and was intercepted by law enforcement in Puerto Rico.

Both men remain jailed.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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