Nampa woman asks court to throw out gun evidence

An attorney for a woman accused of illegally possessing a pistol claims police ignored her insistence on speaking to a lawyer and continued to question her.

Nampa police investigating the murder of 46-year-old Jeffrey Dyer went to the home of suspect Raul E. Herrera with a search warrant on Dec. 3, 2014. Officers contacted Herrera’s fiancee, Sophia D. Sanchez, as she opened the garage door at the home on Aspen Grove Street, northeast of Lake Lowell.

At least six officers and detectives entered the house despite protests by Sanchez, defense attorney Mark Ackley wrote in a motion to quash the evidence collected during the search and questioning of Sanchez. Police began the search without informing Sanchez they had a warrant, Ackley wrote. She was not told that until eight minutes after officers began searching.

That’s when Sanchez told officers she would not answer their questions until she spoke to her attorney. Nine minutes later, police read Sanchez the Miranda warning that anything she told them would be used against her.

Ackley claims Nampa Detective Mark Palfreyman coerced Sanchez into talking with him. Palfreyman noted that Sanchez’s 16-month-old baby was her top priority and that the detective wanted to make sure she was able to remain with the infant. He suggested, Ackley wrote, that was contingent on her cooperation.

Police ordered Sanchez to accompany them to the Nampa Police Department, where she was questioned for three hours before being allowed to leave. During questioning, she admitted to possessing a .22-caliber pistol found in a bedroom closet. She was arrested and charged later that night, after police stopped her while driving with Herrera.

Police violated Sanchez’s Fifth Amendment rights by questioning her after she invoked her right to counsel and for initially failing to inform her of her Miranda rights, Ackley wrote. Her subsequent waivers of her rights were not valid, he said, because they were not voluntarily given.

“Because Miranda warnings were required but not given prior to questioning, Ms. Sanchez’s statements about the firearm made before she was Mirandized should be suppressed,” Ackley wrote in his motion.

Police seized Sanchez’s laptop computer, car keys and cell phone and asked her for the password to her phone. None of those items were listed on the search warrant and were illegally seized, Ackley said.

Sanchez, who was convicted in 2010 in federal court in Boise for unlawful possession of a firearm, could face up to 10 years in prison if she’s convicted of the current charge.

Herrera and co-defendant Angelo Cervantes, 22, also from Nampa, were arrested the following day and charged with first-degree murder, robbery, burglary and aggravated battery in connection with Dyer’s death. The men killed Dyer after he failed to obtain prescription drugs that Herrera planned to sell on the black market. They were also mad at Dyer for being disrespectful when he drove past Herrera’s home.

The two men stuffed Dyer’s body into his white 1995 Cadillac and left the car in a strip-mall parking lot in Ontario on Nov. 8. The car and Dyer’s body were found the following day.

A Canyon County jury found Herrera guilty last week on all charges. Cervantes pleaded guilty in May to first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault.