Jury will hear statement of man accused of raping Sunday school teacher

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A Miller County judge ruled Thursday that the videotaped statement of a man accused of raping his former Sunday school teacher is admissible at trial.

Vasquez Hayes, 22, is charged with two counts of rape, kidnapping, aggravated residential burglary, aggravated robbery, and two counts of theft of property stemming from a Nov. 22, 2015, attack on a woman in her Texarkana, Ark., home. Thursday Hayes’ lawyers and prosecutors Connie Mitchell and Chuck Black argued pretrial motions before Miller County Circuit Judge Carlton Jones.

Jones refused to grant a defense motion to suppress a statement Hayes made to Texarkana, Ark., police detectives Jason Haak and Paul Nall at the Miller County Sheriff’s Office after he was identified as a suspect in the case. Lawrence Walker and Crystal Okoro of Little Rock argued that the form Hayes signed waiving his rights is vague and misleading. Mitchell played a portion of Hayes’ interview depicting Haak reviewing and explaining Hayes’ rights to him. Jones sided with the state and ruled the video can be shown to the jury.

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Jones also found that audio recordings of Hayes talking with his wife, an aunt, and an uncle taped in November and December last year on the phone at the Miller County jail are admissible at trial as well. The state has provided the defense with 14 recordings but the defense asked for, and Jones agreed, that the state should turn over all recorded phone conversations of Hayes at the jail.

Jones granted a defense motion to limit pretrial publicity in the case. Jones issued an order preventing the state, the defense and law enforcement from commenting on or discussing the case. But when Walker asked Jones to remove media he described as “slanted” from the courtroom, Jones responded by stating that courts are open to the public and the press.

Jones denied a defense motion which asked that the state be required to call Hayes’ alleged victim as the first witness in the case. The defense argued that the woman could alter her testimony based on what she hears other witnesses say. Crime victims have a right to be in the courtroom at all times during a trial. Other witnesses can be ordered to remain outside the courtroom so that their testimony is not influenced by the testimony of others. Jones pointed Walker and Okoro to Arkansas rules and refused to grant the motion.

Also discussed at Thursday’s lengthy pretrial hearing was an evaluation of Hayes’ competency to stand trial. Jones found that Hayes is competent to proceed to trial based on an evaluation recently conducted by a local psychologist.

The case is scheduled for jury selection Oct. 31 at the Miller County courthouse in Texarkana, Ark. Hayes alleged pushed his way into the woman’s home at gunpoint when she opened the door in the early morning hours of Nov. 22 to let her dog out. Hayes allegedly raped the woman twice and then forced her to ride in her car as he drove her to an ATM and made her withdraw cash. Hayes allegedly released the woman later on a Texarkana, Ark., street.

If found guilty of rape, Hayes faces 10 to 40 years or life on each of two counts. Aggravated residential burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping all both punishable by 10 to 40 or life. For theft of property involving the woman’s car, Hayes faces three to ten years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. If convicted of theft involving the ATM cash withdrawal, Hayes faces up to six years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Hayes is currently being held in the Miller County jail.

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