Defense questions FBI interviews in Blanco murder trial
KINGMAN – FBI testimonies and readings of interview transcripts were some of the primary focuses in the trial of accused murderer Alfredo Gerardo Blanco this past week.
Blanco is accused of murdering Sidney Cranston Jr. in 2015 and of burying his body on a ranch east of Kingman. Longtime acquaintance of Blanco, Bill Sanders, later led law enforcement to Cranston’s body in January 2017.
Sanders entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to tampering with evidence and concealment of a dead body in exchange for his testimony regarding how he helped Blanco bury Cranston’s body near a shed on the 240-acre ranch owned by Don Bishop. The focus was on an interview conducted Jan. 6, 2017 by FBI Special Agent Brian Fuller with Sanders. Fuller was later joined by FBI special agents Tracie Keegan and Desirae Tolhurst.
Blanco’s attorney, Robin Puchek, had previously told the jury in opening statements that during the interview one agent told Sanders something to the effect of admitting to the murder would lead to jail time, while admitting to being a witness would not.
“Once again, Desirae Tolhurst told Mr. Sanders three times words to the effect of I don’t see why you won’t be going home tonight since you have agreed to talk to us. Would you agree that that’s in essence what’s stated on page 314?” Puchek asked during his cross examination of Fuller, citing the interview transcript and later saying he paraphrased part of it.
Fuller confirmed that statement in part, but said he didn’t recall Tolhurst saying the part regarding Sanders going home because he agreed to talk to the FBI.
“The part about going home, I do agree with that,” Fuller said, adding that he didn’t recall the other part of that statement.
“Sir, I don’t see the part about that she said because he talked to us that he could go home,” Fuller said.
“And you would agree with me that if you tell a suspect, let’s say whom you’re questioning, that they’re likely to go home tonight, that might very well be the opposite of going to jail …” Puchek said.
Fuller responded in the affirmative “for that period of time.”
The FBI agents told the courtroom that they frequently employ tactics with the goal of getting witnesses or persons of interest to start providing information. Those include rapport building and even appealing to their conscience. However, they said those tactics do not include making promises to individuals about sentencing, as they do not have the authority to do so.
Prosecuting attorney Bob Moon asked Special Agent Keegan if she or the other two agents had made any guarantees to Sanders about not serving any jail time.
“Absolutely not,” she said, adding that the conversation about Sanders going home pertained only to that day.
Blanco’s trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the court of Judge Rick Lambert.