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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 not know what had happened to Duncan except that he must have killed her. This interrogation stopped at 5:05 a.m. to allow defendant to rest.

At about 11:00 a.m. on August 29, Sigafoos advised defendant of his rights and attempted to take another statement from him. At this time, defendant declined to talk and asked to speak with an attorney. Questioning then ceased.

On August 30, at approximately 1:30 p.m., Investigator Robert Roman, fully aware of defendant's earlier request to speak with an attorney, went to the Kandiyohi County Jail to speak with defendant. Roman read defendant his Miranda rights and asked him if he had any questions. Defendant asked a series of procedural questions and then, unprompted by Roman, stated that he was in real trouble and felt that he had killed Duncan, but could not remember anything about the incident. At this point, Roman interrupted defendant to tell him that he was starting to talk about the case and reminded him of his earlier request for an attorney. Roman then asked defendant if he understood his right to an attorney and if he was waiving this right. Defendant responded that he understood and was willing to speak with Roman.

At first, defendant repeated the same story he had given to police earlier. Defendant also told Roman about several things that had been bothering him the week of the murder. Defendant spoke of his dissatisfaction with his job as a Navy recruiter and his anxiety about having low recruitment totals. He was also upset that his wife had taken their children to the Twin Cities for the weekend.

Roman then asked defendant to try to recall the events of August 29. Defendant proceeded to give Roman a detailed account of the events, stating that, during the early morning of August 29, he had felt an overwhelming need to talk with somebody. Defendant knew that Jacqueline Duncan was home so he went down to her apartment and asked if she would like to come upstairs to watch a movie with him. Duncan refused in a curt manner and slammed the door in his face. Defendant returned to his apartment, thought about Duncan's response in addition to his other problems and became very upset. He then took a large kitchen knife and went downstairs to Duncan's apartment again. In his statement, defendant claimed that he could not recall why he picked up the knife and that different thoughts were rushing through his head.

Defendant next entered Duncan's unlocked apartment without knocking, walked over to the couch where she was sitting and, without speaking, stabbed her three times in the chest. Defendant vaguely remembers dragging her body into the bathroom after she fell to the floor. Afterwards, defendant took a shower ...

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