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Published: Saturday, 3/7/2009

Court hears Calif. detective by video

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nearly three months after a woman's body was found in a shed near the shuttered Southwyck Shopping Center, Toledoan Dana Todd Rister was arrested in California and charged with murder.

Yesterday, via video linkup from San Bernardino, Calif., a detective who interviewed Rister before he was extradited to Ohio was questioned about how that interview took place.

San Bernardino County sheriff's Detective Greg Myler testified in Lucas County Common Pleas Court during a motion-to-suppress hearing - the first one held in the courthouse via video. The detective answered questions from attorneys and the judge, all seated thousands of miles and three time zones away.

Last month, Judge Gene Zmuda granted the request of Assistant County Prosecutor Rob Miller to allow the detectives who interviewed Rister to testify using the court's video conferencing system.

Judge Zmuda ruled that using video does not impede Rister's constitutional right to confront his accuser because the system allows the judge to swear in witnesses and watch their demeanor and lets the defense attorney question them.

Rister, 42, of 2223 Laurel Valley Dr. is charged with two alternate counts of murder in the death of Debra Pioterek, whose body was found June 26 in a shed behind 5225 Southwyck Blvd. Authorities said Ms. Pioterek, 57 and homeless, had been strangled. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Attorney David Klucas filed a motion to suppress statements made in the interview with San Bernardino detectives Sept. 15. He claimed Rister's attempts to remain silent were ignored and he did not knowingly waive his right to counsel.

Assistant prosecutors responded that a video shows Rister was read his rights before the more than five-hour interview - captured both on video and with an audio recording - in which Rister confessed to strangling the victim and trying to cut her hands off to prevent DNA from being recovered from under her fingernails.

During the hearing yesterday, Assistant County Prosecutor Jevne Meader questioned Detective Myler about his department's policies, which do not include asking suspects to sign waiver-of-rights forms, as is customary locally. He also questioned whether Rister at any time refused to talk or requested a lawyer. Detective Myler responded that he had not.

Mr. Klucas, who opposed holding the hearing by video, questioned the detective about allegedly embellishing facts - such as saying DNA had been found when it had not yet been tested - and telling Rister that it was the only time someone would listen to his side of the story.

Both sides have 10 days to file additional information with the judge before he will rule on the motion. An April 28 trial date was set yesterday.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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