The parents of the teenager who is charged with killing St. Petersburg police Officer David Crawford testified Monday that police prevented them from talking to their son for hours and ignored a request to provide him with an attorney.
The parents of 16-year-old Nicholas Lindsey, who were credited with getting their son to confess to the Feb. 22 shooting, are now backing an effort to toss out what defense attorney Frank McDermott termed “the so-called confession.”
McDermott and defense attorney Dyril Flanagan contend police based their arrest of Lindsey on flimsy evidence and then failed to let him talk to his parents or a lawyer before subjecting him to interrogation.
But prosecutors Bruce Bartlett and Jim Hellickson pointed out during a pretrial hearing Monday that Lindsey and his parents both signed the official waiver saying he’d been informed of his rights — a form Lindsey was familiar with thanks to three previous arrests for stealing cars.
When police were reading Lindsey and his parents the part of the form about having a right to an attorney, “Nobody said boo,” Bartlett pointed out to Lindsey’s mother, Deneen Sweat.
“I had so many things going through my mind at that time,” Sweat testified.
Crawford, a 25-year veteran, died about 10:30 p.m. while checking a report of a potential car thief prowling around near Tropicana Field near Eighth Street and Third Avenue S. Two men having a late-night cookout spotted a skinny teen lurking near a Dodge Neon parked across the street from them, so they called 911, according to Detective Joe DeLuca, who testified Monday.
DeLuca said that later, when Lindsey was being questioned, he said he’d been trying to steal the Neon “but the screwdriver just wouldn’t turn.”
When Crawford pulled up, gunfire erupted and Crawford fell dead. Meanwhile the would-be thief took off, running so fast he left his shoes behind, according to DeLuca.
One witness, a homeless man who had been smoking marijuana, saw the shooting and gave police a full description of the teen who ran off, DeLuca said.
Other tipsters reported seeing the same figure in a black hoodie and long shorts vault over an interstate barricade, nearly get run down by a car, then pause next to one man’s house to look back and watch helicopters begin circling the crime scene. The runner then disappeared into the Citrus Grove apartment complex, an area some longtime residents still call Bethel Heights.
An overheard conversation between two drug dealers prompted another tipster to notify police that the subject of the city’s largest manhunt in history was a teen known as “Little Nick,” a onetime football standout who was a sometime student at Gibbs High School. About 5:15 p.m. Feb. 23, police arrested him outside the apartment he shared with his mother.
Sweat accompanied DeLuca and another detective to police headquarters. She testified Tuesday that on the way she asked the detectives if she needed to get her son an attorney and was told, “No, we’re just going to talk to him.”
She said she later repeated that question twice to a female detective as she sat for nearly four hours awaiting a chance to talk to her son. Lindsey’s father, who is also named Nicholas, said when he finally got a chance to talk to Sweat, she told him she had asked about an attorney.
DeLuca and the other two detectives testified that she never asked them such a question. In fact, the female detective, Nancy Pillucere, testified that Sweat told her that Lindsey’s first cousin had told her that her son had run into the apartment that night, looking panicked, and announced he had killed a cop — but when Sweat asked her son about it, he denied it.
Sweat contested that story, saying the cousin was not at the apartment that night.
Another detective she talked to that night showed her a picture of one of the shoes recovered from the crime scene, a black Nike slide, and asked her if it belonged to her son. She testified that she denied it. The detective, Sgt. Terrell Skinner, said she said it was, in fact, her son’s — and she signed the picture to attest to it.
When detectives brought Lindsey in for questioning, Skinner noticed his shoes looked strange and asked him about it. Lindsey said he was wearing his mother’s shoes because he couldn’t find his, Skinner testified.
Lindsey spent most of Monday’s daylong hearing sitting at the defense table with his shoulders slumped. But when his mother took the stand, he leaned forward, his eyes trained on her every move.
Flanagan said Lindsey may testify today when Circuit Judge Thane Covert is scheduled to reconvene the hearing.
Lindsey’s trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 12.
St. Petersburg Times