Stevens murder trial set for Monday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2010

VIDALIA — The taped statement of a murder suspect can be used at his trial next week, the Seventh Judicial District Court ruled Wednesday.

Michael Kelly Stevens, the suspect in the October 2009 murder of Vidalian Mike Welch, is set for trial Monday, and the court had a trial of motions Wednesday to discuss what evidence could be presented at trial.

Of particular contention was a video statement Stevens made to investigators the day after he was arrested in Harris County, Texas. His attorney, Madaline Gibbs, alleged Stevens was intoxicated at the time he gave the statement.

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She also said the statement would be prejudicial against the defendant because in it he alludes to both past criminal history and crimes he allegedly committed following the murder.

“There is no reason (to include the video) except to convict the defendant as a bad person in the minds of the jury,” Gibbs said.

District Attorney Brad Burget said the defendant had been incarcerated for 13 hours before the video statement was taken, and pointed out that during the video statement — toward the end — he emphatically stated he was not intoxicated when an investigator asked him if he was.

No evidence was produced to prove the defendant was intoxicated, Burget said.

CPSO Investigator David Hedrick, one of the interviewers in the video — the other was Vidalia Police Investigator Randy Stockman — testified he did not believe Stevens was intoxicated at the time of the interview.

“He was very coherent, his words were steady,” Hedrick said. “He had no odors emanating from him to lead me to believe he was intoxicated.”

“I would never have taken a statement if I thought he was intoxicated.”

No drug tests or field sobriety tests were conducted before the interview, Hedrick said.

During the video, the defendant was read his Miranda rights and waived his right to have an attorney present.

After hearing arguments and viewing the video, Judge Leo Boothe said it was the court’s evaluation that there was no indication of intoxication.

Likewise, Boothe said any allusions Stevens may have made to past criminal conduct were volunteered freely and — because of their vague nature and because the interviewers did not pursue them further — did not unduly prejudice the video statement.

Gibbs also objected to a number of photos Burget said the state would enter into evidence at trial.

The graphic nature of the photos could be overly prejudicial, Gibbs said.

Burget argued that the photos were necessary to show different angles of the crime scene and the fatal wounds, and said he had actually culled a number of repetitive, graphic photos from the evidence.

Boothe ruled he would allow the photos Burget had indicated he was planning to use for trial.

The judge likewise denied a motion filed by the defense asking for a delay of the trial on the grounds they had just received a copy of Welch’s autopsy Wednesday.

Welch was found dead in his Myrtle Street home Oct. 4, 2009. His throat had been cut.

Stevens, who was living at Welch’s home at the time, was later arrested in Harris County, Texas, when deputies there found him in Welch’s pickup truck in a park after hours.

Stevens reportedly tried to escape the Harris County deputies by jumping into the nearby Houston Ship Channel.

He has been detained on a $2 million bond.