WINCHESTER — A ruling is expected within three weeks on a motion to suppress the police interrogation of homicide suspect Joshua Clay Coffelt.
The interrogation was conducted shortly after Coffelt was accused of shooting William Michael Harris on March 24 at the Elks Lodge on South Kent Street. Judge Brian Madden on Friday in Winchester Circuit Court said he expects to rule by Dec. 6 on the motion made by Coffelt’s attorney Suni Mackall. His remarks came after an approximately two-hour hearing that including the playing of audio and video excerpts of the questioning and testimony from Winchester Police Cpl. Jason Poe and Detective Adam J. McCoy.
Poe arrested Coffelt shortly after Harris, a 38-year-old father of five, was shot in the back and head on the dance floor of Elks Lodge 458. McCoy and Sgt. Matthew J. Bielecki interrogated Coffelt.
Witnesses identified the 28-year-old Coffelt as the shooter. Police haven’t given a motive for the killing.
Mackall wrote in her suppression motion that Coffelt grunted when advised of his Miranda warning against self-incrimination, but never signed a document waiving his right. She said Coffelt was in an all-terrain vehicle crash in 2009 that caused a spinal cord injury paralyzing his right arm and causing severe migraine headaches. She wrote that Coffelt was experiencing a migraine during the interrogation and at one point vomited while being questioned.
“The defendant’s illness and the police’s neglect to provide him with medical care caused the defendant to be under duress. He was never provided any medical attention during the time of the interrogation or at any time after his arrest,” Mackall said. “The defendant submits that he was critically impaired and unable to make a knowing and intelligent waiver of his Miranda rights.”
Coffelt has an extensive criminal record including convictions for robbery, use of a firearm in a felony, brandishing a firearm and possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Heather D. Hovermale, deputy Winchester commonwealth’s attorney, noted Coffelt’s record in her written response to Mackall’s motion. She said he should have been well aware of his Miranda rights due to his past dealings with police. Despite suffering from a migraine, Hovemale said Coffelt, who denied killing Harris, communicated clearly.
“He chose which questions proferred by police to answer,” she wrote. “He reasoned that he didn’t know what happened because he was outside and he remained silent when he wished not to answer.”
In addition to being charged with first-degree murder, Coffelt faces charges of malicious wounding and two counts of the use of a firearm in a felony. He is set to stand trial beginning Jan. 22.