Nearly two years ago, Ralph Bell, 54, was fatally stabbed in the neck and chest on a railroad bridge over the Winooski River. But the man charged with the crime has not gone to trial. Tuesday marked yet another delay in the second-degree murder case against Daniel Whalon, 27.
"I understand that justice has steps and sometimes they're baby steps," Leslie Bell said.
Leslie Bell says her brother-in-law's murder has been hard on the whole family and the lengthy court process is only making it more frustrating.
"It was just kind of like reliving it over again," she said.
In 2011, detectives say Whalon allegedly told them he stabbed Bell in self-defense. The two men were entangled in a secret sexual relationship and Whalon claims Bell became jealous when he started dating a woman. But now, as the case readies for trial, Whalon's lawyer wants those statements tossed, arguing the alleged confession was not made voluntarily and his client was never read his rights.
Robert Katims/Whalon's lawyer: Why didn't you provide Miranda warnings to Mr. Whalon when he got back to the police station?
Sgt. Michael Warren/Burlington Police Dept.: Because he was not in custody.
Burlington detectives testified that their interrogation was by the book. The five-hour interview started with routine questions until police became suspicious Whalon may have been involved in the murder.
"There were several inconsistencies in Mr. Whalon's statements," Warren said.
Police say prior to his alleged admission, Whalon never asked to end the interview or leave the police station and he never asked for a lawyer.
Robert Katims: You started telling him we know you were involved, we just don't know how it happened, right?
Sgt. Michael Warren: Yes.
Whalon's lawyer says once police started accusing him of murder, he should have been Mirandized.
The hearing will resume later this month when mental health experts square off about Whalon's intellectual capabilities. Ultimately, the fate of his alleged confession will be up to the judge.
The victim's family hopes the case will be resolved without a trial. In the meantime, they're leaning on each other for support.
"It's brought the family closer together," Leslie Bell said. "It makes you realize that never count on tomorrow."
Prosecutors say the outcome of this hearing is the last issue to resolve before the case heads to trial or a settlement is reached.
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