Providence County Superior Court Associate Justice Susan E.
State: Jane M. McSoley
Defendant: Ronald L. Bonin, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Gilbert V. Indeglia Associate Justice
trial in Providence County Superior Court, a jury found the
defendant, Sendra Beauregard (Beauregard or defendant),
guilty of one count of second-degree murder and one count of
discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence.
On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial justice erred,
pursuant to the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine,
allowing a firearm and ammunition into evidence after the
Providence police obtained statements from the defendant in
violation of her constitutional right to remain silent and
right to counsel. Moreover, the defendant contends that the
trial justice erred in failing to exclude the physical
evidence obtained through the defendant's statements,
asserting that her statements were involuntary and the
product of coercion. Finally, the defendant avers that the
trial justice erred in failing to suppress the physical
evidence seized from her vehicle because the Providence
police violated her constitutional rights pursuant to the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by
impounding her vehicle without probable cause. For the
reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the
March 17, 2015, a grand jury indicted defendant on count one,
first-degree murder, in violation of G.L. 1956 §
11-23-1; and count two, discharging a firearm while
committing a crime of violence, in violation of G.L. 1956
§ 11-47-3.2(b)(4). The following facts give rise to
these charges. At the time of her death, Pamela Donahue
(Donahue) shared her apartment with Walter Woodyatt
(Woodyatt), her former boyfriend. At trial, Woodyatt
testified that he had a strained relationship with Donahue
due to his drinking and her drug use. He explained that his
romantic relationship with Donahue ultimately ended, but that
he still lived in Donahue's apartment at the time in
question. Following the end of her romantic relationship with
Woodyatt, Donahue met defendant while they were both staying
in the hospital, and the two began dating.
December 1, 2014, the day before Donahue was murdered,
defendant went to the Providence police station to discuss
concerns she had regarding Donahue's drug use and her
abusive relationship with her drug dealer, with whom,
according to defendant, Donahue had had sexual relations.
After spending approximately thirty minutes speaking with a
detective at the police station, defendant left without ever
identifying Donahue by name.
late afternoon of December 2, 2014, Woodyatt arrived at
Donahue's apartment, after spending several hours at a
local bar, to find Donahue and defendant talking; he alleged
they were also doing drugs. Woodyatt testified at trial that,
around 7:45 p.m., defendant gave him $40 and asked him to go
"to the store right across the street" to get three
packs of cigarettes and soda. Woodyatt testified that he
obliged, and that he thought it was odd when he saw defendant
pulling away in her vehicle as he left the store with
defendant's change and the items she had requested.
Woodyatt testified that he proceeded back to the apartment
and that his announcement of arrival went unanswered.
Woodyatt described finding Donahue face down on the floor; he
testified that he "couldn't get her up." At
8:25 p.m., Woodyatt, unable to find the apartment phone, went
upstairs to use a neighbor's phone to call the police; he
informed them that he believed Donahue had overdosed.
the paramedics arrived and transported Donahue's body to
the hospital, the police looked around the apartment for
about an hour and a half, collecting drugs and cell phones.
Woodyatt testified that, after the detectives left, he
learned that Donahue had died. Later that same night,
Woodyatt testified, defendant called the landline phone at
the apartment and asked how Donahue was doing. Woodyatt
informed defendant, "She's dead[, ]" and
defendant hung up the phone. Upon examining Donahue's
body, the medical examiner determined that a gunshot wound to
the chest had caused Donahue's death. An investigation
December 3, 2014, detectives met defendant at her Johnston,
Rhode Island, apartment, and defendant agreed to accompany
them to the Providence police station to discuss
Donahue's death. During that time, other detectives began
drafting a search warrant for defendant's apartment, and
Johnston police secured the scene. Police conducted a search
of defendant's apartment around 11:00 p.m. and found
nothing of evidentiary value. However, while at
defendant's apartment, detectives located her white Kia
in the back parking lot of the apartment complex and towed
the vehicle to the Providence police station for secure
keeping until police could apply for a search warrant. That
warrant was obtained and executed the next day, December 4,
2014. The police seized a shell casing and three cell phones
from defendant's vehicle.
interim, Detectives William Corrigan and Frank Villella of
the Providence police department initiated an interview (the
first interview) with defendant at the police station and
read defendant her Miranda rights. Detective
Corrigan testified that defendant confirmed that she
understood her rights and that she checked a box on the
rights form acknowledging as much. He testified that
defendant told the detectives that someone had stolen money
from her bank account during her recent stay in the hospital.
Moreover, Det. Corrigan testified that defendant told
detectives that she had been in a relationship with Donahue
for several years.
Det. Corrigan testified that defendant admitted to having had
an argument with Donahue on the night of December 2, 2014,
and that defendant told the detectives that she left the
apartment soon after she sent Woodyatt to get cigarettes and
soda because Donahue had asked her to leave. Approximately
twenty-five minutes into the interview, defendant requested
counsel and the police terminated the interview. At that
time, defendant was not under arrest and she left the
station. Detective Corrigan testified that, based on his
extensive experience dealing with individuals under the
influence of narcotics or alcohol, defendant did not appear
to be inhibited by either during that interview.
days later, on December 12, 2014, police obtained an arrest
warrant for defendant. On December 22, 2014, police located
and arrested defendant and transported her to the police
station, where Officer Kathleen Chamberlain booked and
processed defendant around 2:30 p.m.
Carlos Sical and Det. Corrigan arrived at the cellblock
shortly before 5:00 p.m. and took defendant to an interview
room for questioning (the second interview).
outset of the second interview, which began at 4:50 p.m.,
defendant asked the detectives if her attorney had contacted
the police; Det. Corrigan informed defendant that the
attorney had not. Detective Corrigan then read defendant her
rights again. Near the beginning of the interview, defendant
referenced counsel twice more. At one point she asked,
"I mean, do I get my lawyer in here with * * * me then?
I don't want to be alone if that's (inaudible). I
don't know. I mean, I do know. I don't want to be
alone." Then, after a short time, the following
"[DEFENDANT]: * * *. I mean, my lawyer was called. But
can you- can you call him again? See if he can come listen
and understand what-what's going on?
"DETECTIVE CORRIGAN: So you want your lawyer
present? Is that-is that what you're saying?
"[DEFENDANT]: Yeah. I-I want-it's not 'cause I
want to be (inaudible).
" * * *
"[DEFENDANT]: I just want someone to advocate for me. *
the detectives did not stop the interview, and the
conversation continued. During this interview, the detectives
informed defendant that, in searching her vehicle, the police
had found a shell casing in the front passenger side. The
defendant denied any knowledge or involvement regarding the
shell casing. Instead, defendant proposed the idea that
perhaps someone had planted the shell casing in her vehicle
in an effort to "pin" the crime on her. Until this
point, defendant and the detectives had remained quiet and
calm in their exchanges. However, after the detectives
informed defendant about the shell casing, the video
recording of the interview reveals, defendant became tense
and raised her voice for a moment. The detectives also became
argumentative for a short time.
that, the remainder of the second interview proceeded in a
conversational and seemingly relaxed manner, and defendant
continually denied any involvement in Donahue's murder.
Eventually, defendant stated, "I thought I was supposed
to have a lawyer here for questioning." The detectives,
again, continued to question defendant. At some point
thereafter, defendant asked the detectives if they had
anything else to tell her, at which time the detectives told
defendant that "[t]he bullet-the shell casing we found
in your car, it matches the bullet that we found in her
body." In response, defendant repeatedly told detectives
that was "impossible."
defendant again invoked her right to counsel:
"[DEFENDANT]: You're supposed-
"DETECTIVE SICAL: Sendra-
"[DEFENDANT]: -to have a lawyer here. You're not
even supposed to continue to talk to me. Why can't-
"DETECTIVE SICAL: Do you want your lawyer?
"[DEFENDANT]: Well, I called him before. He said he
called down to the station. Did we check-now what do we do
now? I've never been through this before.
" * * *" * * *
" * * *
" * * *