LIMA — Gabriel Salyers, charged with murder in the April 3 death of a Lima toddler, took the witness stand Thursday morning as his attorney attempted to have statements the Lima man made to police ruled inadmissible at trial — including what was described as a “confession.”
Defense attorney John Fisher claimed Salyers was “coerced” and “deceived” into giving certain statements during an April 3 interview by police that focused on the death of 18-month-old Jaxxon Sullivan. The infant was found unresponsive by police at 826 Oak St. in Lima on April 1 and died two days later in a Toledo hospital. Salyers was described by police as being the live-in boyfriend of the infant’s mother, Shelly Wireman, who also has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in her son’s death.
Salyers, 32, of Lima, was indicted by an Allen County grand jury on May 15 in connection with the death. He faces charges of aggravated murder and murder, each an unclassified felony; three counts of endangering children, second-degree felonies; one count of fourth-degree felony domestic violence and one misdemeanor charge of possession of drugs.
Testimony in Thursday’s hearing focused on two interviews of Salyers conducted by detectives from the Lima Police Department — one on April 1 and another on April 3. Detectives Sean Neidemire was the lead investigator in the case and conducted the April 1 interview. He was joined during a portion of the April 3 interview by Detective Steve Stechschulte.
According to testimony from Neidemire on Thursday, the April 1 interview lasted for approximately two hours before Salyers ended it by requesting a lawyer. The April 3 interview was initiated by Salyers, who requested another opportunity to talk to Neidemire. That session lasted for more than four hours.
It was during the April 3 interview that Salyers reportedly confessed his role in the death of the child and also implicated Wireman, according to statements made in court Thursday.
Salyers testified that he did not learn Jaxxon Sullivan had died until halfway through the April 3 interview. Salyers said the news, delivered by his interrogators, “blew me away … it broke my heart. I couldn’t believe it.”
But as the interview continued, Salyers testified that he felt worn down and brow-beaten by his questioners after being told repeatedly that he was lying to them.
“It was like I had to say ‘yeah, I did it’ or it (the interview) was never going to end until they heard what they wanted to hear.”
Fisher noted for the court that Salyers had been taking Suboxone, a medication often given to persons recovering from an opiate addiction, for more than a year prior to his arrest. The defendant did not have a prescription for the drug, his lawyer conceded.
But Fisher maintained that a lack of food and sleep — combined with alleged Suboxone withdrawal and techniques on the part of investigators he termed as “very disturbing” — led to false statements being made by his client.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Randall Basinger, however, told Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed that Salyers wanted to speak with investigators a second time “because he had an agenda” to incriminate the mother of the deceased infant.
Reed took the motion to suppress under advisement and said he would rule in a timely manner.
A jury trial for Salyers has been scheduled for Oct. 23.