Defense questions police work in trial of woman found in Vail dumpster
Testimony of ex-husband leads to verbal sparring between lawyers
EAGLE — Linnea Hayda’s public defenders on Friday attempted to chip away at her ex-husband’s alibi, leading to some fireworks between the prosecution and the defense over admissible questions and evidence.
District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman played referee in an afternoon session full of stops and starts during the testimony of Hayda’s ex-husband, who told police he had nothing to do with Hayda being found in a Vail dumpster on the morning of March 27, 2018. Hayda faces felony charges including false reporting, violating a protection order, tampering with physical evidence and attempting to influence a public servant.
Thea Reiff, one of Hayda’s two public defenders, wanted to know why Vail police officers didn’t perform a full forensic examination of Hayda’s ex-husband’s phone when they interviewed him on two separate occasions. She also questioned his whereabouts on the afternoon of March 26, 2018, after he punched out from his job at the Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards at 3:58 p.m. before picking up the couple’s two children at a West Vail day care at 5:15 p.m. And she also wanted to know why police never made him take a polygraph test and why they were so quick to clear him as a suspect, given the couple’s history of police calls for domestic violence incidents.
On three separate occasions — Jan. 24, 2017, Feb. 28, 2017 and Feb. 16, 2018 — officers responded to calls at the couple’s apartment in Vail, each time resulting in the arrest of Hayda on misdemeanor harassment charges. The charges eventually led to Hayda’s ex-husband being named the mandatory party in a protection order, giving him custody of the couple’s two children.
According to the police report, neighbors called 911 on Jan. 24, 2017, because of a loud argument in the couple’s apartment.
Reiff asked Hayda’s ex-husband, in reference to the first incident: “That argument was because she thought you were cheating on her, correct?
“I don’t recall,” the ex-husband answered.
“You can’t recall the argument that started this chain of police contact or the restraining order?” Reiff asked.
“That night I do not recall the specifics of the argument,” he stated. “I don’t recall what happened each time. The police were over other times before they started arresting her.”
Of the Feb. 28, 2017, incident, Reiff asked the ex-husband: “Once you stepped outside, you told them she should go to jail.”
“I don’t recall exactly what I said,” he said.
“Do you or do you not remember, immediately saying she should go to jail?”
“I don’t remember my exact words. The cops were over at my house multiple times,” he said.
“Do you remember telling police that you wanted to send her to jail so they could rip the baby out of her stomach?”
Hayda’s ex-husband said he didn’t recall, nor did he remember what charges Hayda was brought in on.
“I don’t remember all the charges. She has a lot of charges right now,” he said.
The quesadilla incident
In earlier testimony, under questioning from deputy district attorney Johnny Lombardi, Hayda’s ex-husband said he called police on the night of Feb. 16, 2018, after Hayda threw a quesadilla he was cooking, and then wrecked the couple’s kitchen. He said he feared for the safety of his children.
The two were sleeping in separate rooms at the time, when he said Hayda returned from Georgetown after dropping off her other son with the son’s father.
“It was a very wintery, snowy night, and it took a while,” he said. “She got home, clearly not happy, went straight into her room, came out, was very argumentative. I was making food for myself, a quesadilla, and she took it out of the toaster and threw it across the kitchen, then started to throw food that was in our fridge across the kitchen, then threw (our daughter’s) car seat across the kitchen table, and that broke a picture. I picked up my son, who was in the room, and called 911.”
Reiff also questioned Hayda’s ex-husband about his mental health, mentioning an incident when Dan Torgerson, formerly of the Vail Police Department, came to the couple’s home over an alleged psychotic episode.
Lombardi objected to the line of questioning.
Reiff stated in front of the court that she was just trying to establish that both Hayda and her ex-husband struggled with mental health issues and that it was substantive that Hayda’s ex-husband once “thought animals were talking to him.”
Reiff also questioned Hayda’s ex-husband about injuries Hayda had during the first call when police arrested her.
“Those injuries were to the side of her face, the top of her forehead and the crown of her head. Do you recall the officers talking about the redness on her face and the bump on her head?”
Reiff continued: “They asked you about those injuries, and you said she had been scratched by the dog and may have hit her head moving the car the day before. That’s what you told the officers.”
Hayda’s ex-husband stated: “She got her car stuck in a snowbank and she fell trying to to get it out the night before.”
Reiff continued: “At the end of the day, despite those injuries, she was the one arrested? Because you already had an explanation for those injuries?”
“Yes,” Hayda’s ex-husband stated.
In the morning session, Reiff grilled Jesse Rector, the detective who did the initial interview with Hayda’s ex-husband on March 27, 2018, on why the police never did a forensic examination of the man’s phone.
Rector testified that Hayda’s ex-husband allowed police to search his car, his phone and his home, and also allowed officers to take his clothing and to snap pictures with his shirt off to try to determine if there were any defensive wounds. Rector testified that he did a cursory search of the cell phone on the morning of March 27, 2018 — looking at call logs. But he said police opted not to pursue a search warrant allowing them to do a full forensic examination of the phone after not finding anything to corroborate Hayda’s story in their investigation.
Assistant district attorney Heidi McCollum, in follow-up questioning, asked Rector why Vail police didn’t do a data extraction.
Rector explained that, for a search warrant, “we would have to have evidence that is more likely than not that (he) committed this crime. Google can’t do that without a warrant. Verizon, too, would require a search warrant to access that data.”
Reiff found it curious that investigators didn’t push for the warrant, didn’t attempt to ask Google or Verizon to do a forensic examination if the ex-husband volunteered to let them search the phone, and never followed up with a polygraph test. She also questioned why photos Rector took of the ex-husband’s house were never submitted as evidence.
In her questioning of Hayda’s ex-husband, she also tried to make the argument that Hayda was held to a double standard.
“There were no other witnesses over 3 years old to these incidents, but your word was enough to arrest Ms. Hayda,” she said.
Hayda’s ex-husband said the condition of the room Hayda slept in at the couple’s Vail apartment was what led social services workers to pursue child negligence charges.
“Even though you were equally responsible for the condition of the home and welfare of the children, she was charged with child negligence?” Reiff asked. “Ms. Hayda ends up charged, and you don’t. Didn’t that seem a little one-sided to you?
“It was the condition of the room she was sleeping in and the condition of the kitchen she destroyed that night is why she was charged for child abuse,” the ex-husband said.
Dunkelman dismissed the jury Friday by telling them that the trial, originally scheduled to last through July 31, is now expected to wrap on Thursday.