Accused wife-killer wants evidence tossed

Cortez A. Hamilton

DOVER — A judge is evaluating the validity of evidence seizures in the first-degree murder case of a Smyrna man accused of causing his wife’s death two years ago.

On Friday morning in Superior Court, a lawyer for Cortez A. Hamilton Sr. maintained that a police visit to his home was an “illegal, warantless entry” that violated his Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy and began a path to his arrest and indictment. He pleaded not guilty to charges against him.

The prosecution, however, pointed to foreboding texts that Keisha S. Hamilton, 35 at the time, sent just prior to her disappearance as a reason to enter the home on Jan. 10, 2015 to check on her and her children’s well being. Mrs. Hamilton had not shown up at work either, adding to the alarm.

Deputy Attorney General Steve Welch said the search was not primarily motivated to seize evidence or make an arrest, but to protect citizens and make sure they were OK. Ms. Hamilton’s 14-year-old son let police in with a key, accompanied by her sister who had contacted authorities expressing concern about her whereabouts.

With no cars present at the home, though, defense attorney John Garey questioned why police needed to enter when “there was no evidence that Mr. Hamilton intended to harm the children” and he already had previous travel plans to leave the area.

No longer living at the home at 113 E. Cayhill Lane in the Twin Willows neighborhood, but still with a key, Mrs. Hamilton’s son could have checked the residence without police, Mr. Garey said.

“It was an investigation when police arrived …” Mr. Garey said.

Once inside, police discovered human blood splattered throughout the home and no sign of Mrs. Hamilton or her children ages four and 10 months. A butcher knife was also located on the floor. Mrs. Hamilton’s empty car was found about a half-mile away from the house with her purse still inside, the prosecution said.

Police also learned of past protection from abuse orders issued against Mr. Hamilton, 32 at the time, in what was described as a trouble marriage, according to Mr. Welch.

Mr. Hamilton and the two unharmed children were located by police in Indiana three days after the Delaware State Police issued an Amber Alert.

While Mr. Garey maintained there was no reason to believe the children were in danger, Mr. Welch countered that police “Were not doing their job properly if they didn’t stop the vehicle.”

According to Mr. Welch, “He was concerned for his mom’s welfare, his actions were reasonable.”

At the conclusion of a roughly 45-minute hearing, President Judge William L. Witham Jr. said he needed to “take some time to review case law and some transcripts” and would take the suppression motion under advisement until determining a ruling. A scheduled to begin on Jan. 22, 2018 and could last three weeks.

Mrs. Hamilton has not been located since her disappearance, and her family considers her deceased. Approximately 10 family members and supporters attended Friday’s proceedings.

Charges include first-degree murder, first-degree assault, possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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