Judge: Confession made by accused killer can be part of trial

Defense attorneys Melynda Cook and Lawrence Hawkins III filed motions arguing police violated their client’s rights during four interviews, which took place between 2013 and 2014.

During one interview police continued to question French after he asked for an attorney and one was never provided, according to the defense attorneys.

They also said their client was not in the proper mental state — he had stated he was suicidal — to waive his rights during interviews with police, particularly the Dec. 10 jailhouse interrogation that resulted in his confession to Howe’s murder.

The audio and video of four lengthy interviews of French by police in 2013 were played in court last week and Pater ruled the first three interviews — from January 2013, March 2013 and September 2013 — could not be suppressed for trial. In those interviews, French denied any involvement in Howe’s death while being interviewed by Monroe Police Detective Gregg Myers.

But in an interview on Dec. 10, 2013, French admitted to former Middletown Police Detective Rich Bush that he choked Howe to death at her Mount Pleasant Retirement Village cottage during a robbery attempt and then tried to destroy evidence and hide her body.

That confession will not be suppressed at trial, Pater ruled today, stating French’s Miranda rights were not violated and that French was “patient” during the questioning and waited to make his statement.

“He knew what was going on,” Pater said.

French, 56, of Berea, Ky., who is a former maintenance worker at the retirement community, faces the death penalty if convicted of the 2012 murder of Howe, a Monroe resident and the wife of a once-prominent Middletown car dealer. He is charged with aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and robbery, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. His trial is set for Oct. 19.