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Crime & Courts

Lawful entry? Lawyers argue pretrial motions in murder case against Michael Kulpin

Lawyers argue pretrial motions in murder case against Michael Kulpin

SYCAMORE – Despite the fact that Michael G. Kulpin repeatedly told officers they couldn’t enter his apartment, they testified Thursday that they were so concerned for his girlfriend’s safety that they went in anyway.

Moorea Des Roches, 19, was found dead about 10 p.m. June 5, 2016, wrapped in a shower curtain in the closet.

Kulpin, 21, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated domestic battery and concealment of a homicide. Prosecutors said he beat and repeatedly stabbed Des Roches on June 4, 2016, inside the apartment they shared in the 900 block of Kimberly Drive.

DeKalb County Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert likely will rule March 28 on whether officers had the right to enter the apartment without a warrant. Kulpin is scheduled to stand trial beginning April 16.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Stephanie Klein argued that the totality of the factors police observed demanded they enter the apartment.

“There was no violation of constitutional rights,” Klein argued. “The officer did what the citizens and the law hopes, expects and demands they do in a situation such as this.”

Des Roches’ mother, Susan, told police her daughter hadn’t gone to work at Portillo’s in Batavia on June 5, 2016, or the day before, and that she’d been abused by Kulpin in the past, DeKalb police officer Jonathon Jursich testified. Jursich said Susan told him she found it unsettling when Kulpin, not her daughter, dropped off their child the morning of June 4, 2016.

“She said it was unusual, because she did not have a good relationship with Michael,” Jursich said.

He testified that he and another officer did a welfare check at the apartment Sunday night, but no one was home, and Des Roches’ car was not in the lot. After going back to the department and getting more information from Des Roches’ mother, Jursich and two sergeants returned. Des Roches’ car was there. Kulpin and a couple were in the apartment, and Kulpin visibly was high on drugs, Jursich testified. He said Kulpin was struggling to stand upright, and at one point had to go outside to dry-heave.

Sgt. Todd Wells agreed that Kulpin obviously was on drugs, something even Kulpin’s lawyer, Dan Transier, wouldn’t dispute.

“His eyes would roll back to the back of his head, and he appeared as though he was going to fall asleep,” Wells testified.

Both Jursich and Wells testified that Kulpin said they couldn’t enter the apartment.

“He told us there was something in his closet that would put him in a jail for a long time,” Jursich said.

When asked what it was, Kulpin said it was marijuana and a crack pipe, both officers testified.

Jursich said Kulpin admitted to using marijuana and crack, and Wells said he contacted the DeKalb Police’s Targeted Response Unit to obtain a warrant for a drug investigation.

Wells testified it usually takes at least two hours to get a warrant, but the officers wanted access to the apartment immediately because of their concern for Des Roches, he said.

“The purpose of us being there in the first place was to check on the well-being of Maria,” he said. “That was our purpose of going there. The drug investigation was separate.”

Transier argued Kulpin declined multiple times when officers asked to enter, and that both he and the man and woman who were in the apartment with him said multiple times Des Roches wasn’t there.

“That is the benchmark of privacy in our society,” Transier said. “There was no evidence presented that there was someone in there who needed immediate help, who needed immediate assistance.”

DeKalb police Sgt. Mark Tehan testified that he was the one who found Des Roches’ body in the back bedroom closet. He said the first thing he saw in the room was a baby crib. Then he opened the closet.

“I saw a body-shaped bundle on the floor of the closet, covered with a shower curtain and wrapped in a blanket,” Tehan said.

He said he pulled back the shower curtain and found Des Roches’ body.

Stuckert also must rule on Transier’s motion to suppress statements Kulpin made to DeKalb police Detective Mark Nachman during interviews because he invoked his right to a lawyer when he said, “So, I can have one right now, right?”

Klein argued that was ambiguous, and that shortly thereafter, he agreed to continue with the interview.

“[Invoking the right to a lawyer] needs to be made unequivocally,” Klein said. “It needs to be unambiguous. It needs to be clear.”

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