Prosecutors can use a costume allegedly worn by a murder suspect the night Key West restaurant server Jonathan Alvarado Perez was killed, a judge ruled Friday.
Defense attorneys for Peter Erik Hedvall argued that Key West police violated their client's constitutional rights relating to search and seizure when they confiscated the white suit he was allegedly wearing the night Perez was killed.
Hedvall was charged with first-degree murder in the case.
Defense attorneys argued that their client only consented to police looking at the suit, and not testing it for blood, and that they never acquired a search warrant or tried to get consent from the actual owner of the clothes -- Jared Michael Hobgood.
But County Judge Wayne Miller disagreed, stating in his ruling, "the plain meaning of the words 'look at' was not violated by the actions of KWPD. In fact, the KWPD did exactly what they said would do: They looked at the clothing and from the inspection they developed a reasonable suspicion that the clothing contained potential evidence related to a homicide investigation."
Miller explained the matter was much like instances when police test drugs found on a person.
"The court finds no difference between this situation and the situation where an officer sees what appears to be illegal drugs on the person of a suspect and presumptively tests it to confirm suspicions," Miller wrote. "The court further finds that the exigency of the situation, to wit: Giving potential evidence of a homicide back to the defendant was sufficient to justify retention of the clothing for evidentiary purposes."
Video taken of Hedvall's interrogation at the police station shows him consenting to police viewing the clothes, but not consenting to a blood test, nor did he give consent to police keeping the clothes, defense attorney Alan Fowler argued.
Hedvall, 28, did explain to police that the clothes didn't belong to him, and that he needed them back because they were on loan from Hobgood, Fowler said.
State Attorney Catherine Vogel declined to comment on the case.
A tentative trial before Miller remains set for March 17.
Prosecutors allege both Hedvall and Perez, 32, had been in the neighborhood tavern Dons' Place, 1000 Truman Ave., hours before Perez's body was found Oct. 28, 2011, beneath a commercial truck parked just a few houses away on Grinnell Street.
Perez was strangled with wire from that Fantasy Fest costume and bludgeoned by a rock, according to a Monroe County medical examiner's autopsy report.
Police detective Matthew Haley testified at Hedvall's bail hearing that small drops of blood on a white Fantasy Fest costume that Hedvall was wearing matched Perez's DNA. Former Truman Avenue resident Honus Hicks testified he saw a man in a white suit bickering with a man wearing costume angel wings the morning Perez died.
Hedvall, formerly of Watson Street, was a former bouncer at Irish Kevin's bar and Bare Assets strip club.
The state is not seeking the death penalty against Hedvall, who remains at Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Perez formerly worked at La Trattoria Oceanside restaurant on South Roosevelt Boulevard.