DA moves to introduce past misdeeds in Bruner murder case
Ryan Summerlin November 4, 2011
BRECKENRIDGE – Dale Bruner, a Silverthorne man accused of murdering his wife last November, may have skeletons in his closet District Attorney Mark Hurlbert hopes to expose in court.
Hurlbert moved to introduce “prior bad acts” at trial at a motions hearing Friday.
The defense asked to have access to information related to the grand jury proceedings, including the jurors’ names.
Judge Mark Thompson, who presided over the first hearing since an Eagle County grand jury indicted Bruner on second degree murder and a series of other felonies in August, delayed judgment on whether to allow the prior bad acts information to be introduced until Jan. 5. He said the delay would give the defense time to review the grand jury transcripts and give the court time to decide whether to allow Bruner’s attorney to see the names of the jurors.
All information related to grand jury proceedings, including the names of the jurors, has been sealed.
“I am concerned about putting the cart before the horse,” Thompson said at the hearing. “I don’t care for the idea of dragging this procedure on forever, but under the circumstances I don’t feel I’m in a situation to do anything other than that.”
If there were discrepancies or misconduct involved in the grand jury proceedings or errors in the way the jury was summonsed, the defense could move to dismiss the indictment, Bruner’s attorney Robert Bernhardt said in court Friday.
“An indictment may be dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct that influenced the jury’s decision to indict the defendant,” Bernhardt said at the hearing. “I need to know who was there, what they were doing, and, frankly, I think we have a right to it.”
After reviewing the grand jury transcription and other information, the defense may file additional motions including ones related to Bruner’s fourth amendment rights, which guard against unreasonable search and seizure, and fifth amendment rights, which protect him from double jeopardy or being compelled to testify, Bernhardt said during Friday’s hearing.
The Jan. 5 motions hearing is expected to be a long one that might involve witness testimony.
A grand jury indicted Bruner in August on charges of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Information in the indictment alleges Bruner hit, strangled and left his wife, Stephanie Roller Bruner, unconscious but alive in the Blue River near their home in just a T-shirt. She died of a combination of hypothermia, drowning, blunt force trauma and strangulation, according to the indictment.
The document stated Bruner then “destroyed, mutilated, removed, concealed or altered his wife’s computer and cell phone.
Dale Bruner reported Roller Bruner – a 41-year-old former county employee, dance instructor and mother of three – missing a few days before Thanksgiving last year, telling police she went out for a walk the night before and never came home.
Rescue crews searched for three days as overnight temperatures dropped below zero before finally discovering Roller Bruner’s body in the Blue River near her house.
Court records and family accounts indicate Roller Bruner and her husband were having marital problems in the weeks leading up to her death.
Roller Bruner was issued a temporary restraining order against her husband in October. The restraining order was revoked a few weeks later at the request of both.
Roller Bruner filed for divorce on Nov. 1.
The couple had been married for 11 years.
The Bruners’ three young children were placed in the care of their mother’s brother and his wife in California shortly after her death.