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Prosecutors have waived the death penalty as a sentencing option for a Hot Springs man charged with shooting a local man and two women to death in 2017, according to court documents.

The Sentinel-Record/File photo - Lewondowski
The Sentinel-Record/File photo - Lewondowski

Nicholas Matthew Lewondowski, 35, who has remained in custody on zero bond since his arrest Dec. 6, 2017, is set to stand trial on April 22 in Garland County Circuit Court, and now faces up to life in prison on each count. A hearing on multiple motions filed on his behalf by his court-appointed attorney, Mark Fraiser, is set for April 16.

Lewondowski pleaded not guilty on March 6, 2018, to three counts of capital murder for the deaths of Paul D. Power, 40, Dory Ann Power, 46, and Brenda Sue Lawson, 60, all of Hot Springs, whose bodies were found Dec. 5, 2017, inside a residence at 208 Nevada St. A gag order limiting pretrial publicity in the case was previously issued by Judge Marcia Hearnsberger.

Fraiser filed multiple motions on April 30, 2018, including ones to prohibit the jury from being "death qualified," where jurors could be stricken if they could not consider imposing the death penalty, to quash the felony information due to the death penalty being "cruel and unusual punishment" and therefore unconstitutional, and to quash it because the aggravating circumstances necessary to justify the death penalty are "vague and overbroad on their face."

On Feb. 5, the state moved to withdraw the death penalty, so the motions were moot and Fraiser withdrew them.

The state had filed a motion for a mental evaluation of Lewondowski on Sept. 14, 2018, which was granted by Hearnsberger on Sept. 17. The evaluation was conducted on Nov. 27, 2018, and, at a hearing on Jan. 15, the findings were presented and Lewondowski was ruled fit to proceed with trial.

Fraiser filed a motion on May 1, 2018, to suppress a statement allegedly made by Lewondowski during questioning by Hot Springs police Detective Mark Fallis on Dec. 6, 2017, arguing Lewondowski did not make "a knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver" of his rights because he was "under the influence of illegal substances," and that the interview continued even after he invoked his right to counsel.

The motion also noted that, on Dec. 14, 2017, Fallis was collecting DNA from Lewondowski at the jail and he took another statement from Lewondowski without the benefit of Miranda warnings being read, so it should be suppressed.

Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence responded on May 30, 2018, that the statement made by Lewondowski on Dec. 6, 2017, was made after he was read the Miranda warnings and waived his rights. She also noted Lewondowski made the statements on Dec. 14, 2017, despite the fact detectives repeatedly advised him they could not talk to him about the case. She argued they were "spontaneous statements" which were not the result of any interrogation and therefore Miranda warnings were not required.

On Jan. 30, Fraiser filed an amended motion to suppress a statement allegedly made by Lewondowski shortly after his arrest. He stated Lewondowski was arrested by police utilizing their SWAT team and placed in a SWAT vehicle driven by Lt. Larry Patrick, who transported Lewondowski to the police department.

The vehicle was equipped with a dashcam and a camera focused on the back seat along with an audio recorder, the motion said, noting the cameras worked independently of each other so one could isolate each camera for viewing.

On Jan. 13, the state notified the defense an audio/video recording existed of Lewondowski's arrest and transport and it was provided to the defense several days later. According to the motion, the tape depicts Lewondowski being placed in the unit and after several minutes the tape "inexplicably stops for approximately 13 minutes then inexplicably restarts."

The motion states, "It is obvious to anyone watching that the vehicle's location has changed and the vehicle is moving."

When the tape resumes, Lewondowski is seen and heard answering questions asked by Patrick. The tape continues until the vehicle arrives at the police department and he is taken inside. Lewondowski asserts that at no time was he given Miranda warnings and that once in the vehicle he had requested an attorney, Josh Hurst, and invoked his right to counsel.

"The defense contends that these tapes are not substantially accurate and were intentionally altered," the motion states.

A hearing to determine the admissibility of all the statements is also set for April 16.

According to the probable cause affidavit on the murder charges, on Dec. 5, 2017, shortly after 5 p.m., police met with a witness, 52, who possibly had information about a multiple homicide.

The witness said a friend, identified as Lewondowski, had visited him the night before at his residence. Lewondowski had three friends with him the witness only knew as Dori, Brenda and Paul. While there, Lewondowski and the three friends got into an argument about one of them stealing property from someone else in the group.

The witness said Lewondowski got "agitated" with all three of his friends and they left and went to what the witness believed was Lawson's residence on Nevada Street. Lewondowski returned to the witness' residence on Dec. 5 and allegedly told him he had killed the three people and needed the witness' help.

The witness went with Lewondowski to the Nevada Street residence and helped him move some vehicles to different locations. He said Lewondowski told him he "would probably need help disposing of the bodies later" and "they would probably just burn the residence down."

Based on the witness' statement, officers responded to 208 Nevada and found the three deceased victims inside "laying in pools of blood." According to documents filed in the case, all three bodies had "multiple gunshot wounds."

Local on 02/13/2019

Print Headline: Death penalty waived in 2017 triple murder

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