Search-dog handler said he saw suspect at murdered boy's apartment complex

By Jason Riley • jriley@courier-journal.com • January 25, 2010

A handler of search dogs testified Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court that he saw Cecil Eugene New II coming out of the basement of the apartment complex where 4-year-old César Ivan Aguilar-Cano lived just days after the child disappeared in June 2007.

Vadim Dale, now a Louisville Metro Police Department recruit, testified that he was getting ready to search the apartment area on July 3, 2007, when a man he later identified as New came out of the basement “looking very red, sweating profusely” and “in shock to see us.”

“I had a really bad feeling about this gentleman,” Dale said in a suppression hearing.

New was later charged with killing the boy.

Defense attorneys have asked Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman to bar both Dale and another dog handler’s testimony about seeing New from his October murder trial.

They claim that the two only identified New after looking at his picture on a sex-offender Web site referred to them by police four days after the sighting, meaning the identification was tainted.

Public Defender Jay Lambert pointed out that Dale’s initial description of the person he saw that day did not match New’s picture on the sex-offender registry. And cadaver dogs never picked up a smell of a decomposed body in the basement, he said.

Dale said he told a detective what he saw on July 7, 2007, the day Ivan’s body was found in the back of a garbage truck. Instead of showing him a photo pack, a detective sent Dale to the registry to look at New’s picture.

While the man he had seen was heavier and more unkempt than New in his sex offender picture, Dale testified that “unless he has an identical twin brother, that was Cecil New.”

The second dog handler will testify Feb. 8.

Ivan was last seen June 29, 2007, in front of the apartment where he and his mother lived near Churchill Downs. For a week, a large-scale search for him was conducted, involving relatives, police and residents.

New, a registered sex offender, was arrested about five months later. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, tampering with physical evidence and being a persistent felony offender.

Also Monday, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jon Heck told McDonald-Burkman that the prosecution had forensic evidence and statements that put Ivan in Cecil New’s apartment.

McDonald-Burkman sealed the evidence in the New case on March 3, 2008, to keep “inflammatory, graphic and possibly irrelevant material out of public view until a jury is seated,” according to her ruling.

The state Supreme Court recently upheld her ruling.

Reporter Jason Riley can be reached at (502) 582-4727.

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