Attorney requests lower bond in Sanders case

Sanders enters plea of not guilty to tampering with physical evidence
Monday, August 25, 2008 | 7:56 p.m. CDT; updated 9:59 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 11, 2008

COLUMBIA — Daniel Sanders, the teen found with his mother's body in the trunk of the car he was driving, appeared in Boone County Court on Monday with a renewed request from his defense attorney to lower his $250,000 bond.

Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton took the bond reduction motion under advisement but did not say when he would make his decision. Sanders, 19, also officially entered a plea of not guilty to tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution.

On the night of Aug. 14, Columbia police pulled Sanders over for erratic driving. The body of his mother, 53-year-old Helen Sanders, was found in the trunk, wrapped in a blanket and lying next to what appeared to be a newly purchased shovel.

Police now consider Daniel Sanders a suspect in the ongoing death investigation. Preliminary results from an autopsy released last week showed that Helen Sanders had a significant amount of fluid in her lungs, several broken ribs and a broken sternum. Based on this evidence, police are now investigating the possibility that she drowned in a bathtub in her home.

At Monday's arraignment, defense attorney Christopher Slusher called the current bond "excessive," and asked Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton to reduce it to what the defense considers a more appropriate level.

"We believe you should set the bond for what someone's charged with," Slusher said following the arraignment. He said he doesn't think the ongoing investigation should affect the level of the bond.

The prosecution said Sanders is a flight risk because he could still face more serious charges. Assistant prosecuting attorney Richard Hicks said that if Sanders is set free because of a lower bond, there could be a "motivation on behalf of the defendant to make himself unavailable."

The prosecution also argued against bond reduction because they said Sanders no longer has any ties to the community. However, Slusher said that Sanders has lived in Columbia for three years and pointed out that he had family members in court to support him. The three family members would not identify themselves and declined to comment on the case.

It was not clear at the arraignment whether Sanders had obtained additional legal counsel. Two men who were not identified conferred with Sanders and his family members in the courtroom during the proceeding.

Future court dates for Sanders' trial will be set at 9 a.m. Sept. 2 at Boone County Courthouse, though Sanders likely will not appear for that hearing, Slusher said.


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