Evidence seized in Smyrna murder case ruled admissible at trial

Cortez A. Hamilton

DOVER — The bulk of evidence seized during investigation into a Smyrna woman’s alleged death at the hands of her husband will be allowed into court, a judge ruled Thursday.

Cortez A. Hamilton Sr. had challenged searches by Delaware and Indiana police responding to concerns about the whereabouts of his wife Keisha and their two young children in January 2015.

Ms. Hamilton was reported missing by family on Jan. 10, and Delaware State Police entered her home at 113 East Cayhill Lane after being let in by her 14-year-old son. Human blood was seen inside, with the 35-year-old woman and her children ages 4 and 10 months nowhere to be found.

While defense attorney John Garey described the visit as an “illegal, warrantless entry,” Superior Court Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. maintained that the circumstances allowed the teen son the right to enter the Twin Willows neighborhood home with police despite not living there regularly yet still having a bedroom there.

Ms. Hamilton had earlier been reported as not showing up to work and had contacted her sister the night before expressing concerns about her husband’s behavior, according to the opinion.

His “mother was missing, and (he) feared for her safety,” Judge Witham wrote in a 52-page order. “It was reasonable, therefore, for him to permit DSP’s entry into and search of common areas of the residence in order to locate her.”

The DSP issued an Amber Alert, which led to Mr. Hamilton being located in Indiana driving a vehicle with his two unharmed children inside on Jan. 10, according to papers.

A vehicle search by Indiana State Police via a warrant brought the seizure of a bloody hammer, bloody clothing belonging to Ms. Hamilton, along with clothing and shoes from Mr. Hamilton partially covered in mud and stained blood, according to documents. Ms. Hamilton’s wedding ring, a lock of her hair, her purse and a cell phone were also found.

The warrant was valid based on information received from Delaware State Police by Ms. Hamilton’s sister, blood evidence at the residence and her abandoned car supposedly found in a parking lot, according to the opinion.

The defense had argued that the Amber Alert was invalid because there was “no indication that Keisha’s children had been abducted or were in any danger,” according to the ruling. He claimed “that he was simply taking his children on a pre-planned trip to see his family,” and thus no alert should have been issued.

However, according to Judge Witham, the “police, not the Court, determines if a child’s disappearance poses a credible threat to the child’s safety and health” and thus the alert issuance was permissible by authorities.

Mr. Hamilton has pleaded not guilty to charges against him — 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.

Deputy Attorney General Stephen Welch argued for the prosecution.

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