The court file in a capital homicide case involving the 1988 slaying of an elderly Salt Lake woman was ordered sealed by a judge three weeks before trial.
Third District Judge Scott Daniels closed the two-volume file on Daniel R. Troyer at the request of defense attorneys during a scheduling hearing Friday, one day after a reporter examined the records and obtained a copy of a police interview with the defendant that has been ruled inadmissible as evidence.Daniels said it was not unusual to close an entire file but was in fact "so much simpler" to seal the whole record rather than specific sensitive documents contained within.
The judge would not comment on "my thinking or the merits of the decision," and defense attorney Mark Moffat said he and co-counsel James Valdez would not discuss any aspect of the case.
"I guess all I can say appropriately is the defense lawyers moved that it be sealed and the state had no objection, and it was granted," the judge said.
But Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Greg Skordas said the defense attorneys complained that The Associated Press had obtained copies of reports that should have been sealed.
"The judge then said he was going to seal the entire file so no one can get in," Skordas said.
The police report that apparently prompted the motion involved an interview Salt Lake Police Sgt. Don Bell conducted with Troyer before his arrest in the August 1988 death of 88-year-old Ethel Luckau.
Troyer's statements to Bell were ordered suppressed by Daniels last year after the defense argued their client was not in custody at the time of the interview and was never advised of his rights before being questioned about a murder for which he was subsequently charged.
The case is scheduled to go to trial May 6.
Luckau was found suffocated in her bed on a day Troyer allegedly walked away from the Bonneville Correctional Center to apply for a job at a barber college up the street from the victim's home.
He had been serving a one-to-15-year prison term for a 1982 burglary of an elderly woman's home, an offense committed while he was on parole for sexually assaulting a 79-year-old woman confined to a wheelchair.
Authorities also believe Troyer may be responsible for the slayings of at least three other elderly women.
He was moved last month from Utah State Prison to the Salt Lake County Jail after Daniels ruled that a prison inmate who claimed Troyer admitted killing Luckau and a South Salt Lake woman could not testify at trial.