Suffolk police and prosecutors have begun explaining in an extensive pretrial hearing how they linked a Mastic man to the rape and killing of a young Medford mother last year, but his lawyer said Tuesday investigators obtained much of the evidence illegally so it should be suppressed.
Dante Taylor, 20, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of an acquaintance, Sarah Goode, 21, a medical technician and mother of a girl, now 5. The rape and stabbing apparently took place in her car, which was found smeared with blood and with a clump of hair stuck in a doorjamb the day after she disappeared on June 7, Det. John McLeer testified Tuesday. Her body was found June 12 about a mile away in the woods.
An autopsy showed she was stabbed twice in the lower torso and at least seven or eight times in the head -- once so hard that a piece of metal was found snapped off in her skull, McLeer said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson. A sexual-assault exam during the autopsy also recovered semen and plant material from her body, McLeer said.
Police focused almost immediately on Taylor after Goode's phone records showed she was last in contact with him, McLeer said. Other detectives questioned him and although McLeer said he made no admissions, he agreed to give his fingerprints and a DNA sample.
Defense attorney John Lewis Jr. of Farmingdale told state Supreme Court Justice John Collins in Riverhead it didn't happen that way.
Lewis said Taylor was taken into custody illegally at his home based on nothing but Goode's phone records. When Taylor asked at the Sixth Precinct in Selden if he was under arrest, detectives told him he wasn't, so he said he was going to leave, Lewis said. "He was told, 'You're not going anywhere,' " Lewis said. Under those circumstances, he said, Taylor was coerced into giving police his fingerprints, DNA and cellphone. After his release, Taylor went to Florida.
The fingerprints were later matched to a bloody palm print on Goode's car. The DNA matched semen from Goode's body. Lewis said that because Taylor was coerced into providing that evidence, prosecutors shouldn't be able to use it.
"I ask that everything that flows from that arrest be suppressed," Lewis said.
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW
Albertson told Collins, "There is no question the police had probable cause [to arrest Taylor] when they went to Florida" the following month.
After the hearing, which will continue for several days, Collins will decide whether that is so and if any evidence should be suppressed during the trial.
McLeer said police collected other evidence, including bloody clothing Taylor left at the home where he was staying in Mastic. And an eyewitness said that the night Goode disappeared, he saw a shirtless Taylor driving a BMW identical to Goode's, near where the car was found the next day. This witness saw Taylor stop and pound on the steering wheel and dashboard, McLeer said.
After learning of another woman who said Taylor tried to rape her at knifepoint, McLeer traveled to Vero Beach, Florida, to arrest him. Taylor again declined to speak to police, McLeer said.
At the airport in Orlando, McLeer said Taylor stood up at one point, suggesting he was going to run away.
"Let me go," Taylor said, according to McLeer. "I'm not going to be able to handle the rest of my life in prison."
McLeer said he replied, "Dante, sit down." And he did.