Date: 1987-03-05

Richmond Times-Dispatch

When Michael Diehl goes on trial for the slaying of his 13-year-old adopted son, a jury will be allowed to hear his statement to police about beating the youth, a judge has ruled.

Virginia Beach Circuit Judge Alan E. Rosenblatt said yesterday he found no basis for defense contentions that Diehl had been forced by police into making the statements.

"The police activity in this case, while vigorous, was not forcible, coercive or deceptive," Rosenblatt said after a two-day hearing.

The judge suppressed part of a videotaped statement given by Diehl before he was read his rights, but said he would allow the prosecution to use the rest of the statement.

Diehl, 41, and his wife, Karen, 36, are charged with murder, abduction, child abuse and malicious wounding in the Oct. 29 death of their son, Dominick J. "Andrew" Diehl. The emotionally disturbed youth died from repeated blows on the head, an autopsy showed.

The Diehls told police they kept the youth restrained with a handcuff and hose clamp in the converted school bus, where they lived with 17 children, and spanked him with a wooden paddle as punishment for bed-wetting.

Another circuit judge ruled last week that Mrs. Diehl's statement to police that she had hit the youth on the head would be admissible at her trial.

Diehl's trial is set for June 1. No trial date has been set for Mrs. Diehl, although prosecutors have said they want to try her first.

Diehl testified Tuesday that he was detained and questioned by police for several hours before he was read his rights. He said he did not pay full attention when asked to sign a statement waiving his rights and said police told him it would be in his best interests to talk to them.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kenneth A. Phillips said Diehl was free to leave before he was read his rights. He said Diehl, a college graduate, was read his rights one by one and agreed that he understood them at the time of questioning.

The Diehls are free on bond pending their trials. Their children, 12 of whom are adopted, have been placed in foster homes.


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