A Washington County Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that statements Daniel Bartelt made to a detectives about the death of 19-year-old Jessie Blodgett and a woman being attacked in Richfield Historical Park are admissible.
Bartelt, 19, appeared in custody before Washington County Circuit Judge Todd Martens with attorney Gary Schmaus for a motion hearing.
The state had the burden of proving Bartelt was not in custody during the interviews and voluntarily made statements to detectives.
Martens made his ruling on two interviews. One occurred July 16 at the Slinger Police Department regarding the Richfield Historical Park incident; the other was July 17 about Blodgett’s death.
Washington County Sheriff’s Department Detective Joel Clausing said he interviewed Bartelt July 16 at the Slinger Police Department.
“I called Bartelt at 5 p.m. July 16. I told Bartelt we are investigating an incident and we needed to speak to him. He was very compliant and asked where we could meet,” Clausing said.
Clausing said Bartelt initially denied involvement in the Richfield park attack but then he allegedly admitted to it. When Bartelt was asked to provide a written statement, he asked for an attorney and the interview stopped. Bartelt was arrested.
Hartford Police Department Detective Richard Thickens said in mid-July he became involved in the investigation of Blodgett’s death. Bartelt was developed as a person of interest. Thickens met with Bartelt on July 17. Bartelt was in custody at Washington County Jail. Once he entered the interview room, a detective removed his handcuffs, and Thickens read Bartelt his Miranda rights.
“The subject of the interview was related to Daniel Bartelt’s relationship with Jessie Blodgett and his whereabouts on the date of her death,” Thickens said.
At one point, Bartelt said he wanted to leave, and he asked for an attorney about an hour into the interview, which stopped at that point.
District Attorney Mark Bensen said the state met its burden and the motions to dismiss statements Bartelt made to detectives should be denied.
Bensen said Bartelt was dropped off at the Slinger Police Department by friends, was told he could leave and that he wasn’t in trouble during the first interview.
“The state will concede he was in custody. ... He understood his rights,” Bensen said of the second interview. “I believe the statements were voluntarily made. The handcuffs were removed. It was not an unusually long interview. There were no deceptive police tactics utilized.”
Schmaus said Bartelt went to the Slinger Police Department as a person of interest, but there is a fine line between being a person of interest and a suspect.
“As the interview is going on, there is a point in time when that characterization tipped. It’s clear that when this interview started they were catching Daniel Bartelt in lies. The detective’s thought process changed,” Schmaus said.
He said Bartelt has no experience with the criminal justice system and at that point a reasonable person would recognize that they aren’t going to walk out of the interview.
As for the second interview, Schmaus said it shouldn’t have taken place and it shouldn’t be admissible.
Martens said someone who is caught in lies might feel there’s a likelihood they would be arrested, but Bartelt was told he could leave at any time.
For the second interview, Martens said Bartelt was brought into the room in handcuffs, but they were removed and he was read the Miranda form.
“I believe he voluntarily waived his rights. He agreed to speak with the detectives,” Martens said.
“I find the July 16 interview didn’t preclude police from interviewing him on July 17,” Martens added.
Martens said there were no promises made to get Bartelt to speak, he was not denied of any comforts and the interviews stopped when he asked for an attorney.
Bartelt’s next hearing will be May 29 when Martens rule on a motion to change venue.