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Judge Rules To Suppress Testimony in Easterling Murder Case

Judge Darren Peckler has granted a motion to suppress statements made by Trenton Easterling, who is being tried for the robbery and murder of Tristan Cole last year.

Peckler ruled in favor of Easterling’s defense, who argued the defendant’s recorded testimony was inadmissible.

Easterling was 16 years old when he was charged with first-degree murder and robbery for shooting and stealing from Tristan Cole on April 12, 2016.

In September his public defender filed a motion to suppress statements made by Easterling while being questioned by law enforcement officers two days after Cole’s murder. The defense argued that Easterling, then a student at Mercer County Senior High School, had not been properly advised of his rights.

Easterling’s three interrogators—including Det. Jeff Stith of the Kentucky State Police, who took the lead in the initial questioning—said they had apprised Easterling and his mother, Melissa Easterling, of his rights. However, they did not ask the Easterlings to sign a Miranda waiver.

After reviewing the arguments from both defense and prosecution, Judge Peckler ruled that “statements made during that interview shall be suppressed.”

Prosecutor Richie Bottoms, the Commonwealth’s Attorney  for Boyle and Mercer Counties, said Peckler’s decision would not change how he handles the case.

“It doesn’t really change our prosecution,” Bottoms said. “We have other evidence we’ve relied upon.”

The ruling was dated Tuesday, Feb. 14, but Bottoms said he’d only learned of the decision this week.

“I would love to see the incriminating statements stand, but I respect the decision,” he said. “The ruling speaks for itself.”

Attorneys for both sides are still waiting for analysis of the forensic evidence to be completed, Bottoms said.

To learn more, check out next week’s issue of The Harrodsburg Herald.

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