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Murder suspect in San Mateo shooting dies: Case against Gregory Elarms dropped after judge tossed confession, appeal ruling was pending
April 17, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

Gregory Elarms

David Lewis

The prime murder suspect whose case was dismissed after a judge threw out his confession to shooting an East Palo Alto activist at a San Mateo shopping center in 2010 is himself dead.

Gregory Leon Elarms Sr., of Pittsburgh, died Monday, April 14 at Stanford Medical Center, according to prosecutors. He was 61.

The cause of death was natural causes, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office.

Elarms’ death came as local prosecutors awaited a state appellate court decision on Judge Stephen Hall’s 2012 ruling not to allow his police confession to the death of David Lewis who was fatally shot June 9, 2010, in the parking garage of Hillsdale Shopping Center. Hall found that San Mateo police violated Elarms’ Miranda rights by refusing his repeated requests for an attorney. The California Attorney General’s Office appealed the action on behalf of the local District Attorney’s Office and a ruling was pending.

But with Elarms now deceased, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the higher court ruling is no longer necessary and local authorities will likely never know which way the justices were leaning. Elarms’ death, he said, eliminates the possibility of justice for Lewis’ loved ones and the possibility of vindication for San Mateo police.

“They will never have their day in court,” he said, adding that on a practical level his death saves public resources maintaining the appeal and potentially launching another trial.

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer echoed the sentiment.

“We’re obviously disappointed that there is no opportunity for justice to be served ultimately for the family, friends and community that so adored David Lewis,” Manheimer said.

Although Elarms escaped prosecution on murder charges, he did serve about five months for having three shanks in his jail cell while awaiting trial.

In the original case, authorities contended that Elarms followed Lewis from San Mateo Medical Center, where Lewis was an outreach worker, to the San Mateo shopping center’s parking garage and shot him once in the torso. The men reportedly knew each other from childhood but Elarms believed Lewis had become his enemy. Lewis uttered the name “Greg” before dying but police made no arrests until contacted by Elarms six months after the shooting. Police believed Elarms may have been a witness to the shooting and went to his home where he voluntarily accompanied them back to San Mateo.

Elarms’ prosecution was on hold for the better part of a year while he was hospitalized in a state mental facility before being found fit for trial. Four days into the November 2012 murder trial, Hall ruled Elarms’ police confession inadmissible because San Mateo police did not Mirandize him, respond to his numerous requests for a lawyer and “preyed” upon his paranoia with repeated promises for release if he just gave them a statement.

According to Hall’s ruling, Elarms told officers during the car ride he needed legal advice and later added “I don’t think I should say anything else because of the Fifth Amendment, I mean I might incriminate myself to a certain extent. I do know exactly what happened.”

Almost two hours into the interrogation at the police station, a detective said he needed to Mirandize Elarms who responded, “[B]ut we already talked man; you can’t read me my rights now.”

The District Attorney’s Office contended Elarms did not legally require Miranda before that point because he initiated contact with police, he voluntarily went to the department, was not handcuffed or searched and told repeatedly he was free to leave.

Manheimer said the department was “pretty shocked” by Hall’s ruling because it felt it was on solid ground.

“We happened to have the DA here and the chief of police as the case unfolded. There was a lot of oversight,” she said.

After the murder case fell apart, prosecutors charged him with the jailhouse possession of a spork, a toothbrush and two pencils strapped together and sharpened to a point as a way to keep him in custody during the appeal. He received four years prison and, with credit for his jail and hospital time, had approximately 10 months left to serve. He was released in July 2013.

michelle@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

 

 

Tags: police, elarms, mateo, lewis, death, elarms,


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