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State v. Susch

May 19, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of Snohomish County. Docket No: 94-1-00697-0. Date filed: 08/03/95. Judge signing: Hon. Gerald L. Knight.

Authored by H. Joseph Coleman. Concurring: C. Kenneth Grosse, William W. Baker.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman

COLEMAN, J. -- Viktor Susch appeals his conviction for first degree possession of stolen property. He argues that the lower court erroneously admitted evidence of stolen auto parts that the police observed during a traffic stop and seized in a search of his home. Because substantial evidence supports the finding that the pickup truck of Susch's friend's was so overloaded that a reasonable officer would have stopped it, we uphold the traffic stop. We also hold that the search warrant's supporting affidavit showed probable cause because a named informant provided the police with detailed and corroborated information against his penal interest while he was under arrest. Substantial admissible evidence supports Susch's conviction. We therefore affirm.


Susch was charged with first degree possession of stolen property, namely Peggy Smith's 1989 Dodge Spirit, license plate number 267 CGR. Before trial, Susch unsuccessfully challenged a police vehicle stop as pretextual and argued that a warrant to search his residence was not based on probable cause.

1. The Vehicle Stop.

On January 27, 1994, Washington State Patrol Officer Kenneth DePretto and Everett Police Officer Jeff Katzer participated in a surveillance of Susch's Everett residence. They saw a pickup drive into the alley behind Susch's house. Two men loaded the pickup and drove away. As the officers followed, Katzer radioed for the Everett Police to stop the pickup. While Officer Katzer admitted that he wanted to find out what was in the pickup, he was also concerned about its unsteady load.

Meanwhile, Everett City Police Officer James Brouwer was on routine patrol in a marked police car. At trial, he had no recollection of receiving a message over dispatch to stop the pickup. But when Officer Brouwer saw the pickup, he stopped it because it was "overloaded for a truck that size, and it had cargo in the back that was hanging over the edge on the right side approximately two feet." During the stop, Officer Brouwer identified Susch as the passenger and Viktor Bondar as the driver. As he tried to help the two men rearrange the load, a tarp came loose and revealed the back half of a blue Dodge Spirit. When Officer Brouwer asked about the auto part, Bondar gave him a receipt from a wrecking yard. Although the receipt did not appear to match the auto part in the pickup, Officer Brouwer did not pursue the matter. Instead, he told the men to get a larger truck. Susch and Bondar walked away and Brouwer left the scene.

Officers DePretto and Katzer, who had parked nearby, remained at the scene. Within fifteen minutes, Susch and Bondar returned in Susch's van. Bondar got into the pickup and drove away, followed by Susch in his van. The officers followed the vehicles to Peter Tkachenko's Mountlake Terrace home. The next day, with Tkachenko's consent, Officer Katzer searched the residence and found the back half of a Dodge Spirit and various other car parts.

2. The Search Warrant.

Soon after the vehicle stop, Redmond Police Detective John Minor applied for a warrant to search Susch's home. Because Susch challenges the issuance of the warrant for lack of probable cause, significant excerpts from Detective Minor's affidavit are reproduced as follows:

On 12-22-93, your affiant first interviewed auto theft suspect, Pavel Shtyba, a fifteen year old Russian immigrant. Your affiant had been tracking area auto thefts, attempts, and recoveries. A pattern was observed with recoveries of Redmond stolen vehicles in the Everett-

Lynnwood area . . . . [The police] had probable cause to arrest Pavel Shtyba for an auto theft in the Woodinville area. We interviewed this suspect who provided a taped statement after Miranda warnings and waiver in which he described a situation where he and a friend, Sergey Berezyuk, were stealing vehicles for a Viktor Sushch [sic], who lives in Everett . . . . Pavel admitted to the Woodinville auto theft. He said he had been present on up to thirty auto thefts in later questioning. . . . He told us he and Sergey would steal vehicles and take them to Victor Sushch's [sic] house in Everett. He admitted to receiving money for stealing the vehicles. He told us VIN's would be altered, registrations forged, and vehicles resold. He told us he was aware of Viktor's connection to Russian and Romanian organized vehicle thefts in Washington . . . . Pavel told us how they would enter a vehicle by defeating the door lock with a screwdriver. This is consistent with damage observed by your affiant as well as damage described on numerous offense reports read by your affiant. He told us of a spring loaded clamp device that attaches to a steering column that when released would tear out the ignition switch. He told us that some undesirable vehicles and parts would be dumped in the Snohomish River. This information was verified by contact with Everett police investigators. He told us about a 1989 Firebird that Viktor Sushch [sic] stole, Redmond P.D. case # 93-6589. This vehicle was stolen from a house located very close to Pavel Shtyba's residence. The radio that was in the Firebird got "burned out" when Viktor Sushch [sic] tried to hook it up, that it is now in Viktor's house. The spoiler from the Firebird was removed and Viktor put it on his van. This van was later observed by your affiant with a spoiler parked in front of Viktor Sushch's [sic] house and registered to that residence located at 1015 Lombard Street, Everett . . . . Your affiant conducted background checks and located an outstanding warrant on suspect Viktor Sushch [sic] for theft in the 3rd degree . . . . On 1-3-94, your affiant found that suspect Pavel Shtyba had been arrested again in a . . . . stolen Nissan 300 SX while taking the vehicle to Montana for Viktor Sushch [sic]. . . . That on 1-12-94, your affiant . . . again interviewed Pavel Shtyba, that he took us to Viktor Sushch's [sic] house, showed us the dead end alley where he parks vehicles, of which four were present. He pointed out a small brown vehicle that he said had stolen parts on the front end. He pointed out a van he said was Viktor's that he said had stolen parts on the interior which he and Sergey had stolen, that the spoiler was the one from the Redmond Firebird . . . . On 1-20-94, your affiant . . .

learned that suspect Pavel Shtyba had been identified from latent prints on a stolen shotgun recovered ...

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