After months of questions following the beheading death of a woman in Camano Island, Washington, law enforcement officials have filed murder charges against the woman's boyfriend after her DNA was linked to the man's samurai sword. 33-year-old Jacob Gonzales has been wanted on an unrelated charge since March, but police have not yet located him.
The mystery began in early March when the gruesome discovery of 26-year-old Katherine Cunningham's decapitated body was made on undeveloped land north of Seattle. Nearby, investigators discovered a primitive bunker filled with guns and ammo. Not long after, a vehicle owned by Cunningham was discovered abandoned in Northern California. The vehicle, a Honda Civic, was towed and the contents were inventoried by police. During the search, investigators discovered a samurai sword that appeared to have blood on it. The sword was tested, and a DNA match confirmed the blood belonged to Cunningham. Testing also determined that Mr. Gonzales' DNA was on the hilt of the sword.
Investigators estimate that Cunningham died on the remote property in February. Some law enforcement officials believe she lived in a trailer on the property with Gonzales. Her body was discovered by individuals that were considering buying the undeveloped property.
Warrantless Search of a Vehicle
In most situations, law enforcement would need a warrant to search a vehicle like the Honda Civic in this case. However, in some circumstances a warrant isn't necessary. Much like when the police arrest a suspect and impound their vehicle, law enforcement has the authority to search a car that has been abandoned and impounded. One reason these impound searches are allowed is that law enforcement has a duty to inventory the belongings of a vehicle's owner to ensure they are returned once the vehicle is removed from impound.
There are several other instances where law enforcement may search your vehicle without a warrant. The first, most obvious example is if you have given consent for the search. Police can also search a vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle, or that you have a hidden weapon that could present a threat to the officer.
The Law Offices of Steve Karimi
One of the most important jobs of a criminal defense attorney is to protect their client from unlawfully-seized evidence from being admitted at trial. The so-called “fruit of the poisonous tree,” evidence that was discovered thanks to illegal searches or seizures can be excluded from evidence. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you on if your rights were violated during the course of your arrest or detention. If the evidence against you is excluded, an attorney may be able to have the charges against you reduced or even thrown out completely. If you have been charged with a crime in the Seattle, Washington area, Steve Karimi is an experienced criminal defense attorney with a track record of favorable outcomes for his client. Contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today for your free consultation.