Yucca man accused of murder to challenge witness testimony
A man accused of first degree murder, first degree burglary and auto theft will next week challenge witness testimony in the case against him prior to his Dec. 11 trial date.
According to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, 24-year-old Buddy O’Brian Wallace stopped in a Yucca neighborhood on Oct. 11, 2015, to ask for directions, and met witness Don Guthrie. He allegedly asked where he could find the home of John McCarty, to which Guthrie provided directions. McCarty was found the following day, the victim of a fatal stabbing in his home. The victim’s truck was found near a set of railroad tracks miles from the crime scene later that day, deputies said.
When deputies arrived at McCarty’s residence, Guthrie approached them and recounted his alleged encounter with Wallace. Based on Guthrie’s description, deputies asked the witness to attempt to identify the man he spoke to with a series of eight photographs. According to deputies, Guthrie positively identified Wallace as the man he encountered.
Guthrie’s testimony will be challenged in a Dec. 5 court proceeding known as a Dessureault hearing, where Mohave County Superior Court Judge Rick Lambert is expected to decide whether identification measures taken by law enforcement were “unduly suggestive.” If Lambert decides such was the case, Guthrie’s testimony and alleged identification of Wallace will not be heard at Wallace’s trial.
“The photographs used in the lineup were unduly suggestive and taint any identification made by Don Guthrie,” said attorney Bradlee Rideout, of Lake Havasu City-based Rideout Law in his motion to suppress Guthrie’s testimony. “The photographs of individuals in the lineup have two things in common: All the individuals are male, and all the individuals are wearing glasses.”
In the photograph allegedly used to identify Wallace, the defendant bore distinctive markings beneath his right eye, a feature not shared by any other person who appeared in the photo lineup. Wallace was also one of only two such people in the lineup who wore facial hair on their chin, lip, cheeks and neck, Rideout said.
According to Mohave County Deputy Attorney Rod Albright, however, Guthrie’s alleged identification of Wallace isn’t in question. “It’s a non-issue,” Albright said. “Guthrie has known Wallace since he was a kid. He didn’t need a lineup to identify Wallace.”
Guthrie’s testimony was only one piece in the case against Wallace, according to prosecutors. After a search of Wallace’s home, deputies located him at a Havasu business four days after McCarty’s body was discovered. According to prosecutors, Wallace admitted to deputies that he was in McCarty’s home on Oct. 12, 2015.
Wallace and McCarty were acquaintances, according to the Sheriff’s report, but the details of their relationship were not disclosed. The murder weapon was never located.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Wallace confessed to the crime during an interview with detectives. According to statements by Rideout, however, Wallace was behaving with diminished mental capacity due to hunger and exhaustion during questioning.
However, Albright says the presiding judge has already ruled Wallace’s confession to be admissible in court. “I still have that to show the jury,” Albright said Wednesday.
If Wallace is convicted on the charge of first degree murder, he could be sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of supervised release after 25 years.