Leesburg woman accused of murder attempting to suppress evidence
A 23-year-old Leesburg woman accused of killing a Sterling man with her then-boyfriend is now trying to get courts to toss her interrogation recordings.
Linsey Hardwick, along with 32-year-old Ryan Williams, are accused of killing 30-year-old JoVaughn Johnson on Dec. 27 in Sterling.
According to evidence presented in court Aug. 15, Hardwick drove Williams to Sterling. When Williams got out of the car, Hardwick heard three to five shots, then saw Williams reenter the car and tuck a pistol in the waistband of his bands.
Johnson was shot five times -three times in the face, once in the shoulder and once in the hand, as though he were defending himself- by a 9 mm handgun.
But Hardwick and her attorney, Corinne Magee, want Hardwick's interrogations that helped lead to her arrest thrown out. Magee argues that Hardwick was too inebriated from Oxycodone to understand what was going on.
“I submit she was incapable to consent to the interrogation,” Magee said to the court.
According to testimony given in court by Hardwick and detectives with the Loudoun County Sheriff's Offce, Frank Pearson and Alex Bracke, five members of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office came into contact with Hardwick Jan. 4 in the afternoon in Lovettesville as she was preparing to leave a friend's house, with whom she had spent the night. By Hardwick's own admission, she woke up around 11:30 and consumed three to four tablets of 30mg Oxycodone and one 1mg tablet of Klonopin. Hardwick said that at the time, she was a regular user of Oxycodone, taking four to five pills a day.
Police then drove Hardwick to the Criminal Investigations Division office in Leesburg. By Pearson and fellow detective C. Cunningham's account, Hardwick sat in the front passenger seat unrestrained. Hardwick alleges she was handcuffed and in the back of Pearson's unmarked squad car.
Once at the station, Hardwick, who felt ill and was later diagnosed with bronchitis, was given soup, crackers and a soda by another police officer. Detectives ultimately spoke with Hardwick for three hours and 45 minutes, though they maintain she was not kept against her will and was given multiple cigarette and bathroom breaks.
During her bathroom breaks, of which Hardwick said she had at least three, Hardwick continued to consume Oxycodone, which she had smuggled in her bra. Hardwick claimed she was trying to get rid of the drugs since she was in a police station. She stated that during each bathroom break, she would take three to four more pills.
However Alejandra Amato, who is working with Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Greg Rosen on behalf of the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, asked Hardwick, “You could have just flushed them, right? But you chose to take them instead.”
During the discussion with investigators, she repeatedly denied having dated, communicated with or knowing Williams, who is also known by the nicknames “Hope” and “Rez.” Pearson said she regularly would get caught in lies during the course of the interview.
At some point during her interview, Det. Bracke was called, who had been investigating Hardwick for an incident where she got caught with marijuana and white residue. Lab results had recently come in and indicated the residue was Oxycodone. At the start of his shift, around 7 p.m., Bracke went to Leesburg to arrest Hardwick. The interview had concluded because Hardwick kept “nodding off.”
Bracke claimed he cuffed Hardwick with her hands behind her back, while Hardwick says they were in front of her. Additionally, Hardwick claims that she was able to slip out of the handcuffs and insert the remaining Oxycodone, around eight pills, into her vagina to avoid detection. Bracke said during the car ride, Hardwick kept falling asleep and had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.
After she was processed for possession of a controlled substance, Hardwick was informed she would not be eligible for bail. It was then that Hardwick asked Bracke to contact Pearson and tell him that she “knew Hope.”
Once Pearson arrived, Hardwick ultimately admitted she drove Williams to the murder, saw a gun in his waistband and heard five “rapid-fire” shots. Following the murder, Hardwick drove Williams to Dover, Del. and then to Colonial Beach, Va. She then drove home alone.
During the interviews, the police told Hardwick that if she cooperated, they would try to help her.
“Our belief at the time was that she didn't pull the trigger, there was some abuse and she was scared of him (Williams),” Pearson said.
Magee alleged that by promising to help the intoxicated Hardwick, the detectives' actions were coercive. Additionally, she said that Hardwick felt she was in the custody of police at CID and was not properly Mirandized.
“Coercion can be promises as well as threats,” Magee said.
The prosecution argued that all of Hardwick's actions were voluntary and that police behaved within protocals.
“The issue isn't whether she was intoxicated. It's about whether law enforcement acted in such an egregious way as to coerce,” Rosen said.
“We also maintain her ability to maintain cognitive functions was apparent,” Roseu said.
Judge Burke McCahill, who heard the motion, only made a partial ruling, allowing statements from her first interview at CID to remain in evidence.
“Miranda rights apply only with custodial interrogations,” McCahill said. “The issue is whether the initial encounter is custodial.”
McCahill ruled that detectives followed “formal police procedure.” Now, McCahill will watch close to six hours of interviews to determine whether Hardwick was able to consent to speak and whether she was coerced during the second interview. He has thus far not decided when he will make his ruling.
Hardwick is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 7.
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