KINGMAN – An 18-minute police interview with alleged first-degree murderer Alfredo Blanco was played during an evidentiary hearing Friday in Mohave County Superior Court before Judge Rick Lambert denied a motion by defense to suppress Blanco’s statements.
Lambert set the next hearing for April 23, and scheduled a trial for the week of Sept. 25. The trial was originally set for May.
Kingman Police Department Detective Dennis Gilbert and FBI Special Agent Desirae Tolhurst grilled Blanco on the details surrounding the disappearance of Sidney Cranston Jr. in June 2015.
The local real estate agent’s body was discovered Jan. 7, 2017, buried on a ranch about 20 miles east of Kingman.
Judge Lambert heard testimony from Gilbert in person and Tolhurst by phone on how they conducted the Jan. 10, 2017, interview and whether they were trying to “trick” Blanco into confessing to the murder, as asserted numerous times by defense attorney Robin Puchek during the three-hour hearing.
Blanco had suffered three strokes and was confined to a wheelchair at Sunview Health and Rehabilitation Center in Youngtown when he was interviewed by Gilbert and Tolhurst. Essentially, it was a “custodial interrogation,” Puchek argued.
Police never read Blanco his Miranda rights, and at least twice during the interview he asked to have a lawyer, Puckek noted. The attorney asked about KPD policy regarding interrogation procedures, as well as the FBI’s policies.
Prosecuting attorney Bob Moon said whether the interviewers complied with policy is not the issue here.
Blanco was never placed under arrest and was free to leave the interview at any time, which he did after the questioning intensified about his involvement in the murder.
Gilbert and Tolhurst began the interview by asking Blanco about the handyman work he performed for the ranch owner, Don Bishop. They wanted to know what he did, where he worked and whether he ever drove the tractor and backhoe.
There were questions about his relationship with Bill Sanders, an acquaintance who implicated Blanco in the murder and eventually led authorities to the body.
They also asked about Jeffrey Cave, a person of interest in the case who also identified Blanco as the killer. Cave was killed Sept. 29, 2016, by Kingman police officers while serving a search warrant for stolen property at his home on Miami Avenue. Detective Gilbert was shot during that incident.
Toward the end of the interview, Blanco became agitated by the questioning, particularly when Gilbert accused him of shooting Cranston in the back with a shotgun.
Blanco abruptly ended the interview, wheeling himself out of the room in a motorized wheelchair.
“The defense’s motion says he was trapped and he couldn’t do anything,” Lambert said. “He rolled out of the room on his own accord. There is no evidence of an arrest. We’re not dealing with custodial interrogation because Blanco rolled himself away.”
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