November murder trial for three most likely to be postponed

Becky Campbell • Sep 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Three people charged in a 2010 murder are scheduled for trial in November, but it will be reset because the prosecutor will be on medical leave.

Tony Purcell, 45, Jennifer Purcell, 34, and Gary Gilbert, 42, are all charged with felony murder and especially aggravated robbery in the May 2010 stabbing death of Steven Rodriquez.

The three are accused of robbing and killing Rodriguez in his East Pine Street apartment. The trio is also charged in Virginia with killing Natasha Collins, who is allegedly the woman who led them to Rodriguez. Police believe Collins was with the three the night Rodriguez was killed.

The latest filings in the case are two motions from Jennifer Purcell’s attorney, Sandy Phillips, who wants two statements her client gave to investigators thrown out. The motions were filed in July, but have not been addressed by the court.

In the first motion, Phillips said Jennifer Purcell made an “equivocal request for an attorney” after police read the Miranda rights to her.

“Rather than confining his questions to clarify the ambiguity of her request for an attorney, the law enforcement officer persuaded her to not request an attorney and to sign her Miranda waiver and give him a statement.

Phillips included the brief exchange in her motion. Purcell said, “I know it’s better to have a lawyer, but I have nothing to hide so would it be better for me to have a lawyer? Be honest.”

The unidentified investigator responded, “I can’t, I can’t, and I won’t say yeah or nay on that. That’s your decision you’re going to make. If you have nothing to hide and you’re going to tell the truth, then I don’t know why you would need one. I wouldn’t need one, but I can’t make that decision for you.”

That statement occurred June 9, 2010.

In the second motion, Phillips also asks for her client’s statement on Sept. 7, 2011, to law enforcement to be thrown out as well.

At that time, Purcell was represented by attorney Jack Campbell. He had an agreement with prosecutors that Purcell would give a cooperative statement about Rodriguez’ killing in return for a favorable plea bargain.

But Campbell died before the case was resolved.

“The actual plea offer was going to be determined after the defendant made her statement and would be based on the value of her statement to the prosecution,” Phillips wrote in the filing.

The day after Purcell gave the second statement, Campbell died and there was no “favorable plea offer” for Purcell.

“Because the defendant fulfilled her side of the bargain, but the District Attorney General could not fulfill his side of the bargain, in the interests of justice the defendant’s statement should be suppressed,” Phillips argues in the motion.

Assistant District Attorney Ken Baldwin said the case is currently scheduled for trial Nov. 5, but he will be out on medical leave beginning Nov. 1.

“It will get reset and tried sometime after the first of the year,” Baldwin said. “We are going to do our best to convict Tony Purcell for first-degree murder. We think he ordered the killing and Gary Gilbert was carrying out his order.”

The three are also accused of killing Collins and dumping her body in Scott County, Va. Those cases are still pending, but Gilbert is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors there.

“The cases in Virginia are still pending, although they’ve made a plea agreement with Gilbert to get his testimony,” Baldwin said.

The Purcells and Gilbert remain in jail awaiting trial.

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