WOODSTOCK - Gary Gauger twice asked to leave a long police interrogation the day his parents’ murders were discovered, but officers wouldn’t let him, Gauger testified this morning.
“I wasn’t looking forward to going home,” said Gauger, who lived on his parents’ farm where their bodies were discovered outside Richmond. “I didn’t know if the police would let me. I just wanted to go.”
Gauger said he first asked to leave about 7:30 p.m. on April 9, 1993, about 3.5 hours into a police interview that would last 18 hours.
During that interview, police claimed Gauger confessed to murdering his elderly parents, although he also said the entire day was a fog and he didn’t remember the murders. But Gauger has insisted he only offered a hypothetical account of how he might have committed the murders in an alcoholic blackout.
Gauger is suing the three sheriff’s investigators who participated in that marathon interview for conspiracy and malicious prosecution. They are retired Detectives Beverly Hendle and Chris Pandre and now Undersheriff Gene Lowery.
Gauger was convicted of the murders, sentenced to death, and spent about 3.5 years in prison. He ultimately was pardoned, and two motorcycle gang members were convicted of the murders as part of a federal racketeering case.
Gauger is the first witness called in the civil trial expected to last at least two weeks. His testimony this afternoon likely will focus on the later parts of the police interview.
In opening statements Wednesday, an attorney for the investigators denied any conspiracy to frame Gauger. Rather, attorney James Sotos said, the officers reacted appropriately to the situation and evidence they found.
Gauger’s attorney Matthew Crowl portrayed the interview as series of manipulations that convinced a vulnerable and exhausted man that he had murdered his parents.
Crowl said police lied when they told Gauger that they had found bloody fingerprints at the scene, his knife in a pocket, and his bloodied sheets and pants in his room – and they assured him that they would lose their jobs if they lied to him.
Sotos said police were allowed to lie during interviews but denied that police used that technique in this instance. Investigators thought Gauger, then a 41-year-old organic farmer, knew more than he was telling them, so they wanted to keep him talking rather than inspire him to end the interview, Sotos said.
Sotos said Gauger told police that he likely slept through his parents’ being shot in a burglary attempt between 8 and 9 a.m., which police thought was odd because the scene offered no signs of a struggle, forced entry or missing items. Also, Gauger’s bed was not far from the trailer where his mother’s body was found or the motorcycle shop where Gauger found his father lying in a pool of blood. It wasn’t until early the next morning that Gauger learned his parents’ throats had been cut.