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United States v. Dyer

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 21, 2019



          Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

         Before the court is the motion to suppress (Doc. 107) filed by Defendant Ernest Kyle Dyer (“Mr. Dyer” or “Defendant”). Having considered the briefing submitted by the parties, the documentary evidence, and the testimony of the officers, the court will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

         I. Background[1]

         On July 5, 2017, Starr Bowman called 911 to report that that she had been physically attacked by her boyfriend, Ernest Dyer. York county officers Joshua Phillips and Po Engle located Ms. Bowman at the Sunoco gas station on North Sherman Street in York.[2] There, she told them-both orally and through a written statement-that she lived at 515 South Queen Street with Mr. Dyer. According to Ms. Bowman, [3] Mr. Dyer had been sexually trafficking her and a woman named Summer Bechtold, sometimes out of his house and other times at a motel, despite being a convicted felon under house arrest. Mr. Dyer paid Ms. Bechtold in drugs, and sometimes used drugs and violence to coerce the women, but stopped trafficking Ms. Bowman upon her request. Ms. Bowman continued to help Mr. Dyer manage the women by feeding, transporting, and disciplining them. Ms. Bowman stated that Mr. Dyer was violent, previously assaulting her by pouring cooking oil on her vehicle and attempting to set it ablaze while she and her children were inside.

         Before calling the police, Ms. Bowman had gone to her neighbor's house looking for a prescription bottle of thyroid medication that belonged to her. Upon returning to her home, she and Mr. Dyer began arguing and, as their conflict escalated, he brandished a forty caliber Hi-Point pistol and struck her in the left eye with it.[4] Ms. Bowman stated that she was familiar with the weapon because Mr. Dyer's mother had purchased it on his behalf, he frequently fired the gun in the backyard, and he kept it in an orange backpack by his night stand. Ms. Bowman informed police that, in response, she fled and began receiving calls from Mr. Dyer, telling her she should return to the house “with a body bag.” As a result, she contacted the police.

         Ms. Bowman also made several other statements not directly related to the altercation, including that Mr. Dyer hired men to rape her as punishment, and that she knew they were hired because they would say things during the assault that only Mr. Dyer could know. She claimed Mr. Dyer paid off police, such that when she would call in, police would arrive, dismiss her claims, then leave. She believed that when she would take taxi cabs, the drivers would be hired by Mr. Dyer and would report to him. She stated that Mr. Dyer had once choked a woman until she was unconscious while having sex with her in the house, potentially killing her. Ms. Bowman also told police Mr. Dyer had murdered people in New Jersey.

         The police examined Ms. Bowman's eye and took photographs of it, concluding she had swelling and injuries consistent with Mr. Dyer having struck her in the face. They also followed up on her explanation of how Mr. Dyer acquired the handgun, confirming that his mother had in fact gone to a gun store and purchased the exact pistol Ms. Bowman claims Mr. Dyer struck her with. The officers confirmed Mr. Dyer was a convicted felon thus barring him from legally possessing a firearm. They also confirmed Ms. Bowman's car had burn marks. The police, however, took no efforts to corroborate Ms. Bowman's claims that Mr. Dyer was offering drugs to his prostitutes, nor did they follow up on what were likely some of the worst crimes she accused him of-murdering multiple people, paying a man to rape her, attempting to murder her and her children, and paying off police.

         This information was at some point relayed to Special Agents Donald Asper and Angela Strauss, who proceeded to conduct their own interview of Ms. Bowman. On July 6, 2017, Agents Asper and Strauss transmitted that information to Detective Mark Baker. He proceeded to rely upon it in drafting an affidavit and warrant application to submit to a York County Magisterial Judge. He listed the following information in his affidavit:

1. Your affiant, Detective Mark Baker, is a sworn police officer with the Northern York County Regional Police Department (NYCRPD) and has been so employed by this agency for 13 years. Your affiant is a member of the criminal investigation division and a Task Force Officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Your affiant is also a sworn Special County Detective for the District Attorney's Office.
2. On 7/6/2017, your affiant was contacted by Special Agent (SA) Donald Asper from the FBI regarding an incident which had occurred last evening involving Starr Bowman.
3. Your affiant spoke with SA Asper who indicated a female in York City was assaulted by a male identified as ERNEST DYER.
4. A copy of the incident report taken by York City including the victim's written statement was forwarded this officer for review.
5. On 7/5/2017, Starr Bowman indicated she had left her dwelling to go to a neighbor's house to get some prescription medications which were hers.
6. Bowman advised she lives at 515 South Queen Street in York City with her boyfriend, ERNEST DYER.
7. Bowman indicated when she returned to the house, a verbal altercation ensued between her and DYER.
8. During the altercation, DYER brandished a Highpoint .40 caliber pistol and struck Bowman in the left eye with the gun.
9. Bowman then indicated DYER pointed the pistol at her.
10. Bowman indicated she fled the residence to an undisclosed location.
11. Bowman further advised after the incident, DYER started to threaten her via phone stating things such as “bring a body bag”
12. Bowman stated DYER has threatened her life in the past and she currently fears for her safety.
13. Bowman advised approximately two weeks prior, another verbal altercation ensued with DYER and during this, he poured cooking oil on her vehicle, which contained her 12-year-old and 5-year-old children.
14. Bowman advised DYER then tried to light the oil on fire while her children were still in the vehicle.
15. Bowman contacted the York City Police Department who responded and conducted an initial investigation.
16. Photographs were taken of the injuries to Bowman by York City Police which included a bruised area around her left eye and considerable redness and swelling.
17. On 7/6/17, an interview was conducted by SA Donald Asper and SA Angela Strauss of Starr Bowman.
18. Bowman confirmed the above account as stated the previous night.
19. Also during the interview, Bowman disclosed there may be illegal drugs located in the residence.
20. A search was done of the criminal history of ERNEST DYER and it was discovered based on his past record, DYER is a person not to possess a firearm.
21. Based upon above information, your affiant requests a search warrant be issued for the residence of ERNEST DYER for the aforementioned items listed on page 1.

(Doc. 116-2, pp. 3-4.) Detective Baker included in the application a request for authorization to seize three categories of items during the search: “Firearms, illegal drugs, cell phones possessed or belonging to Ernest Dyer.” (Doc. 116-2, p.2.) At 8:40 that evening, Magisterial Judge Barry Bloss signed the warrant.

         The next day, Detective Baker executed the search warrant at 515 South Queen Street, along with, among others, Special Agent Ryan Anderson. Upon entering the home, the officers found Mr. Dyer and Summer Bechtold in bed together. In other parts of the house, police located Mr. Dyer's mother and son, Annie Dyer and Raekwon Grant. They handcuffed Mr. Dyer. They then realized there was a bench warrant out for Ms. Bechtold's arrest, so the officers handcuffed her as well. Upon questioning, Mr. Dyer led police to a vacuum in the kitchen closet where a forty-caliber Hi-Point handgun was located. Police proceeded to continue searching the house for contraband and ended up seizing the following items:

(1) 1 HiPoint .40 S/N X7259647 with 10 rounds, Magazine
(2) 1 Swann DVR and charger
(3) 1 Plastic packaging with Apple brand
(4) 1 $270 USC
(5) 1 $36 USC
(6) 1 Silver LG Cell Phone
(7) 1 Gray LG Cell Phone
(8) 1 Silver LG Cell Phone with cracked ...

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