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March 10, 1989


Appeal from District Court, Kandiyohi County; Hon. Arthur J. Boylan, Judge.

Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc.

Keith, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this matter.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yetka

1. The trial court erred by failing to suppress defendant's statement made when police initiated questioning after his request for counsel, but before counsel was provided. A subsequent statement also made before counsel was provided was properly admitted because defendant had initiated contact with police. This subsequent statement, along with other evidence, was sufficient to render the trial court's error in admitting the first statement harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. The evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's finding that defendant was not legally insane at the time of the offense.

YETKA, Justice.

On December 8, 1987, defendant, Rodney Allen Warndahl, after a bifurcated trial before the Kandiyohi County District Court, was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in connection with the August 29, 1987 death of Jacqueline Duncan. Defendant was sentenced to a mandatory life term.

On appeal, defendant does not dispute that he caused the death of Jacqueline Duncan, but argues that his conviction must be reversed because: 1) the trial court erred in failing to suppress defendant's statements made to police after he had requested an attorney and 2) the trial court erred when it ruled that he was not legally insane at the time he killed Jacqueline Duncan.

We affirm the conviction.

Defendant, 24 years old at the time of the offense, lived with his wife and children in an apartment in Willmar. The victim, Jacqueline Duncan, lived in the same building. Defendant described his relationship with Duncan as a casual acquaintance and claimed that, except for a few times when he had to ask her to turn down her television, he had had no problems with her and felt that she was a good neighbor.

Defendant's past criminal history consists of a 1977 juvenile court conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct. During the proceedings for this offense, defendant was diagnosed as a borderline psychotic individual and was subsequently placed in a boys' school and then several foster homes. He later served 7 years in the Navy, primarily as a cook in the submarine service. In 1987, defendant was transferred to Willmar to work as a Navy recruiter. While defendant had previously enjoyed being in the Navy, he found his job as a Navy recruiter extremely stressful because it entailed frequent contact with people. Defendant's wife testified that defendant, who was already introverted, became much more withdrawn after they moved to Willmar.

On August 29, 1987, at approximately 2:08 a.m., Willmar police received a 911 call from defendant, who told the dispatcher, "I've got a problem. A murder." Defendant explained to the dispatcher that he didn't know what happened, but that he had gone crazy and had killed his neighbor with a knife.

When police arrived at defendant's apartment, he met them wearing only a pair of bikini underwear with a red stain on the front. Defendant told police that he didn't know or remember what happened, but when he woke up, his downstairs neighbor, Jackie, was dead and he had killed her. The police then proceeded to the downstairs apartment where they discovered the body of Jacqueline Duncan lying in the bathroom entryway. Medical Examiner Dr. Garry Peterson, who performed the autopsy on Duncan's body, testified that he found 45 different stab and cut wounds. Dr. Peterson concluded that the cause of death was exsanguination (bleeding to death) from one of three major wounds to her chest.

Police discovered physical evidence in Duncan's apartment which further implicated defendant. A large kitchen knife removed from Duncan's body was determined to have been from a set of kitchen knives found in defendant's apartment. Also, a bloody fingerprint and a bloody footprint found in Duncan's apartment were later identified as those of the defendant.

At approximately 4:05 a.m. the morning of the murder, Investigator Dennis Sigafoos of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) took a taped statement from defendant. Defendant told Sigafoos that, earlier that morning, he had gone to sleep on his couch after returning from a bar in Montevideo and when he awoke, he was in Duncan's shower. He said that he stepped out of the shower and saw Duncan lying on the floor with a knife in her side. He claimed that he then realized that he had killed her and called 911. Defendant repeatedly stated that he did ...

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