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Mueller v. State

February 26, 2009

MARY J. MUELLER, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Washakie County, The Honorable Gary P. Hartman, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Appellant, Mary J. Mueller, was convicted by a jury of felony possession of methamphetamine, which police found while executing a search warrant at her residence. On appeal, Mueller challenges the district court‟s denial of her pre-trial motion to suppress the methamphetamine evidence, contending the affidavit supporting the issuance of the search warrant failed to establish probable cause. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Mueller phrases the issue as follows:

Did the trial court err as a matter of law by refusing to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant that was deficient on its face due to omissions in the supporting affidavit?

FACTS

[¶3] On April 18, 2007, Jamie McKim reported that her white four-door Mercury Sable, bearing Wyoming license plate number 9-231B, had been stolen from her place of employment in Worland, Wyoming. Later that evening, law enforcement officers spotted the stolen car. After a brief chase, police found the vehicle abandoned on North 15th Street and discovered two individuals hiding nearby.

[¶4] One of the individuals arrested, Alfred Martinez, reported that Joey Costalez had given him the car earlier that day. Martinez stated that Costalez was his cousin and that Costalez lived in the area where they had ditched the car. Thereafter, police returned the vehicle to McKim, who reported several items missing, including a car seat, an iPod, and some key chains.

[¶5] The next day, Officer Horath of the Worland Police Department spoke with two individuals who lived in the vicinity of 809 N. 15th Street. Both individuals reported seeing two Hispanic men unloading plastic boxes containing clothing from a white four-door sedan the previous night and inserting the boxes through a window into the north-side basement apartment at 809 N. 15th Street. They described one of the men as "heavy set" and identified the other man as Joey Costalez.

[¶6] On April 19, 2007, Officer Horath sought and obtained a search warrant for the north-side basement apartment at 809 N. 15th Street, which was leased to Mueller. While executing the search warrant, law enforcement officers discovered methamphetamine as well as other drug-related items inside the apartment. Mueller was charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a felony, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c)(ii). She filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of her apartment, asserting that the affidavit underlying the search warrant was insufficient to establish probable cause. The district court denied that motion.

[¶7] Following a trial on November 13, 2007, a jury found Mueller guilty on the charged offense. The district court sentenced Mueller to serve a term of incarceration of four to five years, but suspended execution of that prison sentence in favor of a split sentence consisting of one year in county jail followed by four years of supervised probation. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Standard of ...


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