by LAURA HAYES
Over a year ago, Tasha Lynn Hanson, 24, was murdered in Lewiston. Last week, her boyfriend and alleged murderer Kyle Benjamin Allers, 24, appeared in court. His attorneys argued that he should be released and challenged the absence of a Miranda warning before his first interview with police. They also argued against a motion by prosecutors seeking a stiffer sentence because Allers allegedly attempted to burn Hanson’s body.
Allers is currently in custody on charges of murder in the first degree (pattern of domestic abuse), two counts of murder in the second degree, and manslaughter in the first degree (assault). During court, six police officers testified about their interactions with Allers. One of the officers who testified was Winona County Chief Deputy Jeff Mueller, who spoke with Allers during his first interview. When Allers’ defense attorney Michael Kuehn asked Mueller if he would have allowed Allers to leave the interview had he asked, Mueller replied that he was not sure he would have. Was he in fact free to leave, as the law provides a person who is not under arrest? Kuehn asked. “Not sure,” Mueller answered.
On Friday, May 13, 2016, at 6:22 p.m., one of Allers’ family members called and said he or she was concerned that Allers had killed his girlfriend. Sam Gahreeb, who has worked with the Lewiston Police Department for nine years, testified that he was the first officer to respond to the report. Gahreeb said he drove to Allers’ residence, knocked on the door, and talked with him. Gahreeb testified that he told Allers that he received a call that his girlfriend was missing and he was there to help find her.
Around 15 minutes later, Winona County Deputy Adam Carlson arrived at the residence. Carlson testified that he was at Allers’ home for over an hour. When Assistant Winona County Attorney Kevin O’Laughlin asked if Carlson mentioned any crime to Allers, Carlson said he asked Allers about a possible domestic assault between him and Hanson. Allers allegedly told Carlson that they had gotten into an argument on a drive back to Winona to pick up his truck. Carlson said that Allers didn’t know if the argument occurred in the county or city of Winona and suggested that he talk with Winona Police officers.
Carlson testified that he did not pressure Allers to come to the Law Enforcement Center (LEC), but that he asked and Allers agreed. He explained that the LEC was a more controlled environment with fewer distractions and more resources available. Deputy Charles Rolbiecki testified that Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude asked him to give someone a ride to the LEC. Rolbiecki said that he told Allers that he was giving him a ride to the LEC and that he was not in custody. On the way to the LEC, Rolbiecki said they talked about hunting and fishing and he bought him dinner from McDonald’s. Rolbiecki said they ate dinner together in the break room before Allers went to the interview room with Mueller and another deputy.
All of the Winona County and Lewiston officers testified that they did not restrict Allers’ movement, handcuff him, draw weapons, use physical force, threaten him, placed him under arrest, or tell him that he was the suspect of a crime prior to the first interview. According to Mueller, the first interview with Allers lasted around one hour. Mueller testified that he told Allers that he was free to leave at any point several times and asked him if he understood. After the first interview, Mueller said Allers was getting “antsy” and “wanted to know what was going on.” Deputies decided to detain Allers prior to his second interview.
On Saturday morning, at 12:35 a.m., Hanson’s body was found in the woods, around three-quarters of a mile away from the intersection of County Road 23 and County Road 25. The preliminary autopsy indicated that Hanson was murdered by blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation. During a press conference following Allers’ arrest, Ganrude called the tip “crucial” and said he didn’t believe police would have discovered Hanson’s body for a long time.
A Winona County deputy made contact with Allers on Friday morning after the deputy allegedly observed him driving away from a car registered to Hanson that was parked on a Winona County highway. The deputy allegedly observed a quarter-sized spot of what was believed to be blood near the trunk of Hanson’s car.
During Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman’s motion stating her office’s intention to seek an aggravated sentence if Allers were convicted, she wrote, “The defendant [Allers] placed and concealed the deceased’s body in a metal container in or near a farm field in rural Winona County. [Allers] discussed destroying the deceased’s body and vehicle by lighting them on fire. A gas can was found near the metal container. In addition, there is evidence that the victim did not die immediately, but lived for a portion of time after her initial injuries.”
Over the next several months, prosecutors and defense attorneys will submit written arguments on whether Allers’ case should be dismissed. Allers has remained in custody since his initial arrest in May 2016 and is being held for a bail of $5 million without conditions.