Trial opens in murder of crime witness
COLVILLE – Defense attorney Mark Vovos on Monday told a jury of Stevens County residents that the murder trial they are about to decide amounts to a “classic cover-up” by detectives who willingly bought the shaky story of a co-defendant.
But Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Dale Nagy said 57-year-old Christopher Devlin killed a longtime-friend, 52-year-old Daniel Heily, who was just about to testify against Devlin in a trial where he was charged with breaking into Heily’s home and assaulting him on Aug. 2, 2007.
“Mr. Devlin told people that he was looking at four to eight months in prison if he was convicted in that case,” Nagy said. “He told people, ‘Mr. Heily will be 6 six feet under before I ever go to jail.’”
Heily’s body was found stuffed under the front seat of his pickup, which had been parked behind a liquor store in Deer Park. Heily did not show up to testify in court on May 14, 2008, and his bullet-riddled body wasn’t discovered until May 16.
Within days, investigators charged Devlin and 58-year-old Carl A. Hoskins.
Spokane County prosecutors indicated they intended to seek the death penalty against both men because Heily was a state witness. But Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque took the death penalty off the table when he ruled earlier this year that deputy prosecutors Nagy and Larry Steinmetz mismanaged the case when they did not tell defense attorneys for more than a year that they had evidence that the killing took place in Stevens County.
That also sparked a secondary legal battle over which county should pay to prosecute Devlin, since elements of the crime took place in Spokane County. Leveque ruled that Spokane County would prosecute the case before a Stevens County jury.
Nagy on Monday said Hoskins called the victim and promised to give him pain killers on the night of the killing, but that Devlin fired the fatal shots.
Hoskins also faced aggravated first-degree murder charges, but prosecutors agreed to drop that to second-degree assault in exchange for his testimony against Devlin. Hoskins was released from jail last August after having served enough time to satisfy the 27-month sentence he’s expected to get after testifying in the murder trial.
Hoskins “finally got his story straight so he could walk out of jail,” Vovos said. The trial will be “a story of police who rushed to judgment. It’s not what they did do, but what they didn’t … in order to make the story fit.”
In his opening statement, Nagy said investigators were puzzled by what they found – long circular ribbons of foam – on and under Heily’s body. Forensic testing later confirmed that the foam came from bullets fired through a homemade silencer made from foam taken from under Devlin’s bed.
“After you hear all the testimony and see all the evidence,” Nagy said, “I will come back and ask you to find him guilty of aggravated first-degree murder.”