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May 7, 2014

Car wash stabbing suspect wants evidence tossed

EBENSBURG — A Johnstown area man charged in the stabbing death of his estranged girlfriend was in court Tuesday to ask a judge to suppress evidence gathered as part of a number of search warrants.

Demetrius Darnel Gibson also is seeking to have the county pay for an investigator to aid in his defense and wants a jury selected elsewhere or his trial held out of the area.

Gibson, 21, of Tire Hill, is charged with the Aug. 6 death of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Miller, his estranged girlfriend.

Johnstown police allege that the murder occurred inside a vehicle in the parking lot of the Dollar Car Wash along Bridge Street in the city’s Moxham neighborhood.

Defense attorneys Thomas Dickey and David Kaltenbaugh argued in front of Cambria County Judge Norman Krumenacker that authorities did not show sufficient probable cause when seeking search warrants in the hours following the stabbing.

Gibson was identified as the killer by the victim’s brother, Quinn Miller, who was at the scene of the early morning stabbing.

The defense maintains that any evidence gathered from three search warrants – two immediately following the homicide and the third one a few weeks later – was not legally obtained.

A warrant allowing search of the apartment the victim and Gibson shared in the 1100 block of Catherine Street, Tire Hill, drew objections from Dickey.

Also questioned is a search warrant for the 2000 red Chevrolet Blazer police say Gibson was driving.

A warrant allowing DNA samples to be taken from Gibson about two weeks after he turned himself into police did not show sufficient probable cause, Dickey argued.

But the impoundment of the Blazer was especially troubling to Dickey, who said the vehicle was moved from the location in the 700 block of Forest Avenue after it was allegedly abandoned by Gibson.

It was taken to a secure impoundment area in an effort to preserve blood, a cellphone and other potential evidence viewed through an open window in the vehicle, Detective Sgt. Thomas Owens testified Tuesday.

The defense also objects to search warrants for review of cellphone information, especially in light of the fact that the officer who handled that part of the investigation was not present to testify.

Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Wayne Langerholc told the judge he would provide results of DNA testing when they become available. The prosecution also will give the defense video from outside a commercial establishment near the scene.

Krumenacker said he will issue a decision on the issues raised by Dickey. But as for a change of venue or veneer, he likely will wait until jury selection to determine if a panel of Cambria County residents can be seated.

Jury selection, to come from a special panel brought in for the case, is set for Aug. 25.

 

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County Courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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