PORTLAND – A confession and other statements that Chad Gurney made to investigators should not be heard by the jury in his upcoming murder trial, Gurney’s attorney says in court papers.

Robert LeBrasseur says Gurney, in his first conversation with police after the killing of 18-year-old Zoe Sarnacki on May 25, 2009, asked to speak with a lawyer.

At least three Portland police officers took statements from Gurney after that request, without a lawyer present, and LeBrasseur contends that all of those statements should be tossed out of the case.

He will present his arguments to Justice Roland Cole at a hearing on July 7 in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who is representing the state, said police followed state and federal law, and respected Gurney’s rights.

“I don’t think there are any constitutional violations here at all,” Marchese said Friday.

Gurney, 28, is charged with murder and arson. Authorities say he choked and decapitated Sarnacki, then set fire to her body in his apartment on Cumberland Avenue. The two apparently met at a tattoo shop in the Old Port and spent time together in the weeks before Sarnacki’s death.

The central question in the court case is not whether Gurney killed Sarnacki, a former Deering High School student. Gurney has apologized to the family and has already settled a $1.35 million wrongful-death lawsuit.

The question is whether Gurney was legally sane at the time. He has entered simultaneous pleas of not guilty and not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.

LeBrasseur has said Gurney suffers from some form of mental illness, possibly related to a van accident in 2005 that left him with a brain injury and serious damage to his arms, legs and spine.

If his statements to police are not suppressed by Cole, Marchese could use them in an effort to show jurors that Gurney was thinking rationally and was apparently not delusional in the hours after the killing.

She declined to comment on case strategy.

Shortly after Sarnacki’s body was discovered by firefighters in the burning apartment, Portland police Officer Jason King made a traffic stop. The driver of the car happened to be speaking with Gurney on his cell phone.

King took the driver’s phone and spoke at length with Gurney, who apparently told the officer that he had to turn himself in. Gurney had checked into a motel room in Old Orchard Beach.

“Officer King asked Chad Gurney what happened and why he needed to turn himself in,” LeBrasseur wrote in his motion to suppress Gurney’s statements.

“Gurney’s reply to this interrogation was that he needed a lawyer. This is a clear and unambiguous request for an attorney. All subsequent interrogations of Chad Gurney were made in violation of this clear request and in violation of Chad Gurney’s constitutional rights.”

Gurney continues to be held without bail in the Cumberland County Jail. His trial is scheduled for January. 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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