Miranda rights hang in balance for Milford accused killer

DOVER — A Milford man apparently made conflicting statements regarding involvement in a 2015 downtown Dover shooting death that brought a murder charge against him, according to police testimony and interview video presented Thursday in Kent County Superior Court.

Now, Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. is deciding when Rondree Campbell was under Miranda rights during hours of questioning by Dover Police that included several breaks, resumptions, changing locations within the police station and a trip to Milford and back during investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Ken Haltom argued that videotaped interviews and transcripts of conversations between Mr. Campbell and two detectives showed Miranda was in effect throughout the day.

Mr. Campbell’s attorney, Ron Phillips, however, questioned the stops and starts of interviews and whether they at some point halted Miranda status that was never re-established. The defense maintained that statements by Mr. Campbell must be suppressed as the case moves forward.

Mr. Campbell was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in February 2016 regarding the death of a 36-year-old Middletown man on South New Street on Nov. 1, 2015. Nine reckless endangering counts were also returned by a grand jury, along with possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by person prohibited charges.

At the end of a nearly two-hour session Thursday, Judge Witham took the matter under advisement to study transcripts and consider memorandums before rendering a decision whether to suppress statements from Mr. Campbell.

While at the police station three days after an alleged late-night incident in 2015, Mr. Campbell was shuttled between an interview room and cell block area, fielding questions from detectives at both spots.

04dsn Rondree Campbell by .

Rondree Campbell

On Thursday, attorneys questioned detectives on their police station interactions and movements with Mr. Campbell, then 21, after he was taken into custody for questioning on Nov. 4, 2015, when reporting to a Delaware Probation and Parole office.

Sylvester Williams was fatally shot while helping a family member move at a residence on South New Street. Police believe he was not the intended target, and the alleged incident was fueled by a physical confrontation among others in the vicinity approximately 10 minutes earlier that also sparked gunshots.

Police said they first received a report of shots fired and a man wounded at approximately 11:13 p.m. Mr. Williams was struck in the torso and pronounced dead after transport to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover, authorities said.

In a police news release announcing an arrest, Mr. Campbell was described as admitting to the shooting and a separate firearm discharge in the same area shortly before.

The defendant was also seen on Thursday in a recorded police interview denying responsibility before authorities said he changed the narrative of his alleged participation.

Police testified in Superior Court that Mr. Campbell eventually agreed to assist detectives in locating a firearm at a Milford residence. A .22-caliber weapon was found after Mr. Campbell and three detectives traveled to a Mispillion Road address, but authorities quickly determined that a higher-caliber firearm had felled Mr. Williams.

“When we went to Milford we didn’t know what we would find,” a detective recalled from the witness stand.

At some point, according to authorities, Mr. Campbell allegedly described discarding a .38 caliber firearm over a fence in the area of Division and New streets. According to the prosecution on Thursday, no other gun has been located.

A 12-minute video without audio of a cell block interaction was presented to show the “important atmospherics of what the defendant was doing during” his time at the Dover PD and how he was handled, Mr. Haltom said.

Police testified that Mr. Campbell’s initial interactions with a detective nearly turned into an argument “which is never good,” but another officer watching the interview and familiar with the defendant then conversed in an attempt to gain his trust and cooperation.

With a handcuffed Mr. Campbell in the front seat of an unmarked police vehicle, a trio of officers transported the defendant to Milford in search of a firearm, according to testimony. Conversation on the 25-minute trip south was light, and included talk of a chicken bowl entree at Mr. Campbell’s Kentucky Fried Chicken employer, and ducks and geese at the fall time of the year. When detectives briefly got lost in Milford, police said Mr. Campbell directed them back on track to a residence where a gun was found.

Police said no case details were discussed on the way there, but the possibility of a second firearm involved came up on the trip back to Dover.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.