COLUMBIA - As new details emerged in the investigation into his mother's death, 19-year-old MU student Daniel Sanders appeared in Boone County Court on Tuesday to waive his preliminary hearing and to hear the court's rulings on a number of motions filed by his attorney, Christopher Slusher.
Wearing a gray and black striped Boone County Jail uniform and restraints on his hands and feet, Sanders stood silently as Judge Deborah Daniels considered nine motions filed by his attorney. Sanders, who is charged with felony tampering with evidence, is scheduled to appear in circuit court on Monday.
Columbia police found the body of Sanders' mother, 53-year-old Helen Sanders, in the trunk of the car he was driving after pulling him over Thursday night for driving erratically. Several search warrant affidavits offered new details about the events of Thursday night and subsequent searches of the Sanders home.
When police pulled Sanders over, he had scratches on his arms and face, one affidavit said. Court documents also said Helen Sanders was wrapped in a blanket that looked similar to one police found in the Sanders home at 4509 Melrose Drive after executing a search warrant there. Officers also found what appeared to be a newly purchased shovel next to Helen Sanders' body.
The white Crown Victoria that Daniel Sanders was driving was damaged, and the front passenger side tire had been replaced with a spare, the affidavit said. Police found a full-size, heavily soiled tire in the trunk on top of Helen Sanders' body.
The car had been stuck in a ditch earlier, and witnesses reported offering Daniel Sanders help, the affidavit said. But he refused, saying he had help on the way. Eventually he allowed a passerby to help him out of the ditch, according to documents.
On Friday, police searched the home where Daniel, Helen and Daniel's 16-year-old brother lived, seizing a number of items, including three computers, cell phones, bedding, a purple blanket, a medication organizer and scissors from a trash can in one of the bedrooms. Police returned the next day with a new warrant, hoping to find DNA evidence in laundry or clothes. This time, they seized clothes, three razors, a receipt from Gerbes and what police called a "Suicide Book," court documents said.
While police had Sanders in an interview room at the police department, they took nail clippings, swabbed his mouth and photographed his body, documents said.
In court Tuesday, the majority of the nine defense motions were either granted by the judge or put off until a later court date.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Scholz raised no objections to the defense's request to require all investigators to preserve their case notes. Typical procedure is for officers to use the notes to prepare a report and then to destroy them. Scholz said he had already instructed police officers to keep their notes on the case.
The prosecution also agreed to notify Sanders' attorney before investigators performed any lab tests that could destroy or alter potential evidence. Scholz will also notify the defense when the state is ready to release Helen Sanders' body.
Slusher mentioned the possibility of the defense later hiring its own pathologist to examine the body, though he said there are no official plans yet. Boone County Medical Examiner Eddie Adelstein said he would not object to a separate examination.
"Our job isn't to win or lose; our job is to get it right," Adelstein said.
Daniels, however, refused to grant the defense access to the autopsy report. Although it is normal procedure in a criminal investigation not to release the autopsy report before toxicology tests are completed, Slusher argued that the defense should be granted an exception because of the "time-sensitive nature of the case."
Slusher said he would likely raise the issue of reducing the $250,000 bond next week.