Lawyers for Pembroke man accused of shooting girlfriend seek to keep police interview out of trial
Dale Collinge is arraigned at Hooksett District Court on charges of second degree murder after being arrested in Pembroke; Monday, November 13, 2011. (Alexander Cohn/ Monitor Staff)
When Dale Collinge confessed to shooting his girlfriend, he had been sitting for hours in clothes stained in her blood. In that traumatized state, Collinge was incapable of reasonably waiving his right to remain silent, according to his lawyers, who are attempting to keep the Pembroke man’s interview with the police out of his trial.
Collinge is facing a second-degree murder charge after the police said he admitted to shooting 50-year-old Karen Boelzner on Nov. 13, 2011, in the apartment they shared in Pembroke.
Collinge, 49, has told the police that he shot Boelzner after she first pointed the rifle at him and pulled the trigger. The gun was empty. And Collinge’s lawyers, according to documents filed at Merrimack County Superior Court, intend to argue that he believed the rifle was still empty when he took it from Boelzner, asked her whether she wanted to “play guns” and pulled the trigger.
In the motion to suppress Collinge’s interview with the police, public defender Donna Brown argues that Collinge was deeply distressed by what had just occurred and told officers he felt “tired,” “sick,” “overwhelmed” and “scared.”
At the time, Collinge was intoxicated, according to the motion, and still had “blood on his hands from where he cradled Karen in his arms as she lay dying on the floor.”
“During the interview, Dale Collinge asks if he can wash the blood off his hands and the police tell him that he has to wait until the conclusion of the interview,” the motion continues. “At one point in the interview, Dale Collinge looks at Karen’s blood on his hands and breaks down crying.”
Brown also notes that Collinge made inconsistent statements about what had happened that night, at one point saying he had chambered a bullet and then saying he didn’t remember whether he had worked the bolt.
But prosecutors, in their reply, argue Collinge was read his Miranda rights, told an officer that he didn’t have any questions about his right to remain silent and knowingly agreed to speak to the police.
The officers’ first question was open-ended, asking Collinge what happened that night.
“I shot my girlfriend,” Colligne replied, according to prosecutors.
Peter Hinckley and John McCormack, who are prosecuting the case for the state, argue that Collinge was upset but not extremely intoxicated or under the influence of other drugs that would have made him unable to think clearly.
They describe Collinge as “coherent and lucid” during the interview, saying he didn’t appear traumatized and even began to joke with the investigators.
And while they acknowledge that Collinge wavered over whether he was aware of chambering a bullet, the prosecutors say Collinge only became confused on that fact after the police told him he was under arrest.
“I admit that I threw that bolt forward,” Collinge said early in the interview, according to portions of the transcript included in the prosecutors’ filing.
Then, after Collinge was told that he was under arrest, an investigator asked him again if he remembered working the bolt.
“No I don’t,” Collinge replied.
“You’re kind of pissed, too?” the officer asked.
“Yeah and I remember, ‘You want to play guns?’ and at that point I, I would tell you guys I would you know I don’t, I honesty don’t remember if I threw the bolt,” Collinge said, according to the transcript. “I pulled it um obviously I don’t even remember pulling the trigger.”
The prosecutors also point out that Collinge confessed to others about the shooting, including neighbors and responders at the scene.
Judge Richard McNamara, presiding over the case, hasn’t ruled on the motion. A hearing is scheduled for April 16.
McNamara recently struck down another avenue of defense raised by Colligne’s lawyers, who were attempting to gain access to Boelzner’s mental health records in hopes they would shed light on what was running through his mind at the time of the shooting.
Collinge’s mental state is emerging as central to the case, with prosecutors arguing he acted knowingly while showing an extreme indifference to human life and his attorneys believing that, at most, he acted recklessly or under an extreme emotional disturbance caused by provocation.
At a hearing last month, Brown said Collinge was acting in a state of shock when Boelzner, a woman he knew to be mentally unstable, pointed the gun at him. She said that on eight occasions during his interview with the police, Collinge referenced Boelzner’s instability as relating to his mental state at the time of the incident.
But at the hearing and again in his order denying the motion, McNamara pointed out that Collinge took the weapon from Boelzner and turned it on his now unarmed girlfriend.
“There is no dispute that at the time of the shooting, the defendant had a weapon, the alleged victim did not, there was not a struggle for the weapon,” McNamara wrote, adding that Collinge is not claiming he acted in self defense.