The murder case against the 26-year-old Centralia man accused of raping and murdering a toddler last May moves toward its January trial date as the suspect’s defense attorney continues to maintain that Centralia police obtained some of the evidence illegally.
The motion to suppress evidence, filed two weeks ago, argues that a Centralia detective entered the residence without a warrant, stuck his hand in the bathtub to check the temperature of the bathwater, then later used that information, in addition to other observations, to obtain a warrant to legally search the residence.
During a court appearance for James M. Reeder Thursday morning in Lewis County Superior Court, the date for the evidence suppression hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 11 — two weeks before the murder trial is set to start. The hearing, which will likely last a few hours, will include testimony from at least three Centralia police officers who were first on scene that day.
Centralia police initially responded with paramedics to 201 W. Oakview St. shortly before 3:30 p.m. May 24 to a report of a toddler who drowned in the bathtub, according to the police report. When emergency personnel arrived, however, they found the body of 2-year-old Koralynn Fister cold to the touch and showing signs of severe physical and sexual trauma.
Reeder, who was the live-in boyfriend of the toddler’s mother, told police he was bathing the child and left the room briefly to retrieve a towel and returned to find her facedown in the bathtub, according to court documents. The mother was not home at the time.
The defense alleges that when Centralia detective Pat Beall arrived on scene, he was briefed by the two initial responding patrol officers about the situation. Beall had contacted Reeder about a month prior and knew a second child lived at the residence as well.
Beall entered the residence to do a welfare check on the other child, in order to ensure that she was not in the house, and while inside Beall went into the bathroom and put his hand inside the bathtub filled with cold water.
Since Centralia police did not have a warrant yet, the defense alleges the evidence of Beall sticking his hand in the bathtub water was obtained illegally.
After testing the water of the bathtub, Beall then notified the hospital and was told that the child’s temperature, taken 30 minutes after she arrived at the ER, was 84 degrees, well below the average body temperature of 98.6 degrees, according to court documents.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said previously he is not concerned about the motion and its potential impact on admissible evidence, adding that it is only one piece of a puzzle in the case against Reeder. If the judge does end up suppressing the evidence the action will not be detrimental to their case, Meyer said.
The prosecution plans to file a response to the defense’s motion by the end of the month. Reeder is currently being held in the Lewis County Jail with bail set at $5 million.