Interlocutory Appeal from the Lake Superior Court, Juvenile
Division The Honorable Thomas P. Stefaniak, Jr., Judge, The
Honorable Matthew B. Gruett, Magistrate, Trial Court Cause
Attorneys for Appellant Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Ellen H. Meilaender Supervising Deputy Attorney
General Indianapolis, Indiana
Attorney for Appellee Michael A. Campbell Highland, Indiana
The State of Indiana appeals the order of the Juvenile
Division of the Lake Superior Court granting a motion filed
by juvenile O.E.W. seeking to suppress statements he made
during a police interview in which he was not advised of his
Miranda rights. O.E.W. cross-appeals and argues that
the juvenile court clearly erred by finding that there was
probable cause to believe that he committed acts that would
be, if committed by an adult, felony murder, Level 2 felony
robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, and Class A
misdemeanor theft. We affirm the juvenile court in all
and Procedural History
In August 2017, then-fifteen-year-old O.E.W. lived with his
de facto father Andy Ruiz ("Ruiz"), Ruiz's
children, and Ruiz's girlfriend Adriana Garcia
("Garcia"), in a home on Alexander Avenue in
Hammond, Indiana. O.E.W.'s girlfriend, C.P., lived on the
same block. The victim in this case, Lucia Gonzales
("Gonzales"), lived a block away on Alexander
Avenue with her children and her boyfriend, Marco Vera
("Vera"). O.E.W. had previously purchased marijuana
from Vera and, on at least one occasion, directly from
On August 21, 2017, O.E.W. told his girlfriend C.P. that he
planned to go to purchase marijuana from Vera at 9:00 p.m.
that night. Between 8:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. that evening,
Ruiz noticed that O.E.W. had left home without permission.
Garcia sent her son and C.P. out to look for O.E.W. Shortly
thereafter, C.P. saw O.E.W. running away from the area near
Gonzales's home toward the dead-end of Alexander Avenue.
O.E.W. then returned to the area of Gonzales's home, got
on his bicycle, and rode away. Although C.P. called out
O.E.W.'s name, he did not stop.
O.E.W. returned home at approximately 9:30 p.m. He
immediately went into the bathroom and took a shower. When
O.E.W. came out of the shower, Ruiz noticed that O.E.W. had
several injuries, including puncture wounds to his arms,
legs, back, and torso. When confronted by Ruiz, O.E.W.
initially stated that the chain on his bicycle had broken and
that he had injured himself while attempting to fix it. When
Ruiz stated that the injuries did not appear to have been
caused by fixing the bicycle, O.E.W. then claimed that he had
been stabbed during a fight at a local park. Ruiz took O.E.W.
to the hospital, where his wounds were treated. Early the
next morning, Garcia saw a black Samsung smartphone lying
near O.E.W.'s phone. Garcia had never seen the Samsung
phone before, and, when she returned from work later that
day, the phone was gone.
Also early the next morning, at approximately 6:00 a.m.,
Gonzales's six-year-old daughter came to her
neighbor's home, carrying her younger siblings. The small
child told the neighbor that she saw someone whom she thought
to be her "stepfather" Vera lying on the floor,
bleeding. Tr. Vol. 2, p. 171. The neighbor telephoned the
police, who went to the Vera/Gonzales home and found the body
of Gonzales, not Vera, lying supine on the kitchen floor.
Gonzales's body was covered in blood; her pants had been
pulled down, exposing her genitalia, and her shirt had been
pulled up, exposing her breasts. Gonzales had defensive
wounds on her arms and had suffered numerous stab wounds and
cuts to her head and upper torso. She had also suffered a
blunt-force wound to the head that caused an open skull
fracture and resulting brain injury. The police were unable
to locate Gonzales's Samsung smartphone.
Later that day, O.E.W.'s mother, S.W., reported the
alleged attack on her son to the police. After speaking with
a patrol officer, she telephoned a Detective Suarez, who
informed her that she should bring her son to the station to
make a statement. She accordingly took O.E.W. to the police
station that evening to speak with detectives about his claim
that he had been stabbed by another juvenile in a local park
the night before. She also indicated to the police that she
was concerned that the attack on her son might somehow be
related to the death of Gonzalez.
Hammond Police Department Detective Shawn Ford
("Detective Ford") spoke with O.E.W. and his mother
in an interview room, where O.E.W.'s statement was video
recorded. O.E.W. sat at one side of an oval table
with Detective Ford sitting across from him. O.E.W.'s
mother sat slightly behind and to the right of O.E.W. near
the corner of the interview room. O.E.W. told Detective Ford
that he and his friend M.C. went to a local park to meet I.W.
and his friend D.M. so that O.E.W. and I.W. could finish a
fight that had started at school. O.E.W. stated that, after
he won the fight, I.W. stabbed him. At some point in the
interview, Detective Ford's supervisor, Lieutenant Mark
Tharp ("Lt. Tharp") came into the interview room.
He did not sit down, but leaned against the door frame. Lt.
Tharp also worked as a resource officer at the high school
O.E.W. attended and knew some of the juveniles involved in
During the interview, O.E.W.'s mother appeared to be
"uncomfortable and just very kind of nervous and
unsettled[.]" Tr. Vol. 2, p. 33. Detective Ford wondered
why O.E.W.'s mother was concerned that her son, or the
attack on her son, might be connected with the death of
Gonzales. Detective Ford therefore asked if he could speak to
her privately, and she agreed. Lt. Tharp took O.E.W. into
another room while Detective Ford spoke with O.E.W.'s
mother. Lt. Tharp made small talk with O.E.W., but did not
interview him and did not garner any information from him at
this time. Detective Ford asked O.E.W.'s mother if she
had any problems with him asking her son about the murder,
and she indicated that "she's fine with
Detective Ford was not involved with the investigation of
Gonzales's death and therefore did not know any of the
details of the homicide itself. He therefore asked O.E.W.
open-ended questions regarding the murder. O.E.W. indicated
that he knew Gonzales and was aware that she had been killed.
Detective Ford had already established where O.E.W. claimed
to be at the time of the murder-in the park fighting. Lt.
Tharp testified that he recalled how O.E.W. stated that he
had previously been to the home of Vera and Gonzales.
Id. at 50-51. At some point during the interview,
evidence technicians took photographs of O.E.W.'s
injuries and took a buccal swab to collect his DNA. At the
conclusion of the interview, O.E.W. and his mother left the
Detective Ford subsequently spoke with I.W., the youth whom
O.E.W. claimed to have fought on the night of the murder.
I.W. admitted that he and O.E.W. had gotten into a fight at
school, but stated that he did not go to the park to fight.
I.W.'s father confirmed that his son was at home that
night. I.W. also had no injuries that indicated he had been
in a fight. I.W.'s friend D.M. also denied having been at
the park, and he too had no injuries indicating that he had
been in a fight. O.E.W.'s friend, M.C., also denied
having been with O.E.W. in the park when he claimed to have
been stabbed. Instead, M.C. told the police that O.E.W. had
told him that he was stabbed by someone he could not
On August 23, 2017, the police secured a warrant for
information regarding the location of Gonzales's phone.
The phone's service provider gave the police the location
of the phone, which was on the 1700 block of 171st Street in
Hammond. The police went to that address and found O.E.W.
sleeping in the basement. Beneath his pillow was
Gonzales's phone. Forensic investigation of the phone
revealed that it had last connected to Gonzales's wi-fi
network at approximately 9:00 p.m. on August 21, the night of
the murder, and had next connected to a secure wi-fi network
at O.E.W.'s home the following morning at 7:20 a.m. Later
that day, it connected to another wi-fi network named
"[O.E.W.]'s iPhone." Tr. Vol. 3, pp. 31, 37.
The lead detective in the murder case now considered O.E.W.
to be a suspect. Accordingly, he secured a warrant to gather
a DNA sample from O.E.W., and the police again took a buccal
swab from O.E.W. Subsequent testing revealed that DNA from
O.E.W. or one of his paternal relatives was located on the
shirt Gonzales was wearing at the time of her death.
Gonzalez's DNA was also found on O.E.W.'s underwear,
but the rest of the clothes he had been wearing had already
After speaking with O.E.W.'s girlfriend C.P., the police
searched the area near the dead-end of Alexander Avenue,
where she had seen O.E.W. run after leaving the area of
Gonzales's home. There, they discovered a crow bar and a
kitchen knife. Gonzales's injuries were consistent with
being inflicted by these items, and her boyfriend Vera
indicated that the recovered items looked similar to those
kept in their home and garage. The knife and crowbar had been
left exposed to the elements, including a heavy rainstorm the
night of the murder. Thus, the police were unable to obtain
any blood samples or usable DNA from these items.
On March 26, 2018, the State filed a request seeking
authorization to file a petition alleging O.E.W. was a
delinquent child, which request the juvenile court granted.
The following day, the State filed a petition alleging that
O.E.W. was a delinquent child for committing acts that, if
committed by an adult, would be knowing or intentional
murder, felony murder, Level 2 felony robbery resulting in
serious bodily injury, and Class A misdemeanor theft. The
State simultaneously filed a petition to waive jurisdiction
of the case to adult criminal court.
On July 23, 2018, the juvenile court held the first of
several hearings on the waiver issue. At the beginning of the
hearing, O.E.W. moved to suppress the statements he made
during his interview with the police, claiming that he had
been subjected to custodial interrogation without having been
advised of his Miranda rights. The juvenile court
therefore heard the issue of the motion to suppress before
continuing with the waiver issue. After listening to
testimony from O.E.W.'s mother, Detective Ford, and Lt.
Tharp, and hearing the arguments of counsel, the juvenile
court granted the motion in part, suppressing any statements
made by O.E.W. in the second part of the interview where
Detective Ford asked questions about Gonzales's death.
The juvenile court then proceeded to hear evidence on the
issue of the motion to waive the case to criminal court.
On August 22, 2018, the State filed a motion to certify the
juvenile court's order on the motion to suppress for
interlocutory appeal. On August 27, 2018, before the court
had ruled on the State's motion to certify the
suppression order for interlocutory appeal, the juvenile
court entered an order finding sufficient probable cause to
believe that O.E.W. committed what would be, if committed by
an adult, felony murder, robbery resulting in serious bodily
injury, and theft.The juvenile court, however found that
there was "insufficient probable cause to believe
[O.E.W.] committed the delinquent act of Murder, Felony (I.C.
35-42-1-1(1) [knowing or intentional murder])."
Appellant's App. p. 95. The State then filed, and the
juvenile court granted, a motion to dismiss that
On August 31, 2018, the juvenile court issued an order
waiving jurisdiction to adult criminal court. On September
10, 2018, the juvenile court granted the State' motion to
certify its suppression order for interlocutory appeal. The
following day, O.E.W. filed a motion to certify the juvenile
court's probable cause order for interlocutory appeal,
which the court granted on September 18, 2018. This court
subsequently granted the parties' motions to accept
interlocutory jurisdiction and, on January 31, 2019, we
granted the State's motion to consolidate the two
The State's Appeal
We first address the issue presented in the State's
interlocutory appeal, i.e., whether the juvenile court erred
by granting O.E.W.'s motion to suppress the statements he
made during the interview with Detective Ford and Lt. Tharp.
Standard of Review
Questions regarding the admission of evidence are generally
entrusted to the discretion of the juvenile court, and we
review the court's rulings only for an abuse of that
discretion. J.D.P. v. State, 857 N.E.2d 1000, 1006
(Ind.Ct.App. 2006) (citing B.K.C. v. State, 781
N.E.2d 1157, 1162 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003)), trans.
denied. Here, however, the State "b[ore] the burden
of demonstrating the constitutionality of the measures it
uses in securing information." State v. Mason,
829 N.E.2d 1010, 1015 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005) (citing State v.
Farber, 677 N.E.2d 1111, 1113 (Ind.Ct.App. 1997),
trans. denied). Thus, because the juvenile court
granted the motion to suppress, the State appeals from a
negative judgment. See id. (citing Farber,
677 N.E.2d at 1113-14). A party appealing a negative judgment
must show that the lower court's ruling was contrary to
law. Id. We will reverse a negative judgment only
when the evidence is without conflict and all reasonable
inferences lead to a conclusion opposite that of the lower
court. Id. (citing Farber, 677 N.E.2d at
1114). And we neither reweigh the evidence nor judge the
credibility of witnesses and consider only the evidence most
favorable to the judgment. Id.
As our supreme court recently summarized:
The Supreme Court of the United States's groundbreaking
Miranda v. Arizona decision adopted the now-famous
"Miranda warnings." 384 U.S. 436, 444
(1966). They apply to suspects under custodial interrogation,
who must be told that they have "a right to remain
silent, that any statement [they do] make may be used as
evidence against [them], and that [they have] a right to the
presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed."
Id. As the Miranda Court noted, "the
very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on
individual liberty and trades on the weakness of
individuals," id. at 455, so they may be
psychologically coerced into speaking, id. at
446-48. These warnings thus safeguard the Fifth Amendment
right against self-incrimination by warding off police
coercion. Id. at 467; Howes v. Fields, 565
U.S. 499, 507 (2012).
B.A. v. State, 100 N.E.3d 225, 230 (Ind. 2018).
Children are particularly vulnerable to such coercion, making
Miranda warnings especially important, even when
police place a student under custodial interrogation at
school as opposed to a police station. Id. (citing
J.D.B. v. North Carolina, 564 U.S. 261, 269 (2011)).
Juvenile Waiver Statute
In this state, juveniles have long been accorded special
status in the area of criminal procedure. S.D. v.
State, 937 N.E.2d 425, 429-30 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010) (citing
Hall v. State, 264 Ind. 448, 451, 346 N.E.2d 584,
586 (1976)), trans. denied. "To give effect to
that status in the context of waiving intricate, important,
and long established Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights, we
require that a juvenile be afforded a meaningful opportunity
to consult with a parent or guardian before the solicitation
of any statement." Id. at 429. Accordingly, our
General Assembly enacted the juvenile waiver
statute. B.A., 100 N.E.3d at 231.
The juvenile ...