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Attorney General Van Hollen Praises Court of Appeals Decision Validating Police Search of Residence of Racine County Man Convicted of Attempted Murder and Child Abduction.
MADISON, May 2, 2007 - Police investigating a kidnapping can search a residence without a warrant if they reasonably believe that the search will result in finding victims or evidence of the victim's location, the Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in State v. Larsen. The Court's decision affirmed the Racine County circuit court's conviction of David M. Larsen for one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of interference with child custody.
The convictions stemmed from Larsen's January 2004 abduction of his former wife, Teri Jendusa-Nicolai, and her two young children, and his brutalization of Jendusa-Nicolai.
"This crime horrified Wisconsin's citizens," said Attorney General Van Hollen, whose office handled the appeal. "All of us remember our relief when Ms. Jendusa-Nicolai and her children were found. The skill and hard work of Racine County Sheriff's Department officers and investigators, working with law enforcement in Illinois, led to the safe return of the children and saved their mother's life. Time was of the essence in this case, and the Court of Appeals' decision affirmed that the Racine County officers and investigators acted appropriately by moving quickly to save lives."
Having received information linking Larsen to Jendusa-Nicolai's abduction, the Racine County officers and investigators conducted a search of Larsen's home without a warrant. During the search, investigators saw a bloodstained carpet, an overturned chair, a baseball bat resting nearby, and duct tape and bloodstained clothing in the garbage can. Recognizing signs of a violent abduction, officers looked for information indicating the possible whereabouts of Larsen and his captives. The investigation led to Larsen and the victimsÐ²Ð‚with Jendusa-Nicolai being found alive in a plastic garbage can inside Larsen's rented storage unit. Larsen ultimately pleaded no contest to the attempted homicide and interference with custody charges. On appeal, he argued that the warrantless search violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Wisconsin Constitution. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that emergency circumstances justified the warrantless search. Specifically, the court held that police may conduct warrantless searches of premises "for evidence of the whereabouts of a kidnap victim who was reasonably believed by the police to be in imminent danger of harm."
The decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals may be found at the court's website:
Larsen is currently incarcerated at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin.
The State of Wisconsin was represented in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals by Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. O'Brien.