Defense attorney files motion seeking additional information as 2016 double-murder case continues

Duane Meyer enters an Ogle County courtroom for a status hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

OREGON – The attorney for a Stillman Valley man charged with killing his ex-wife and their 3-year-old son in 2016 and then setting their home on fire is asking prosecutors to provide additional information regarding evidence that could be used at trial.

Christopher DeRango, the attorney for Duane Meyer, 41, told Ogle County Judge John “Ben” Roe on Tuesday that he had filed an additional motion for discovery relating to cellphone data and any testimony related to it.

Meyer is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated arson and one count of concealment of a homicidal death in connection with the Oct. 19, 2016, Byron house fire in which Margaret “Maggie” (Rosko) Meyer, 31, was found dead.

Their son, 3-year-old Amos Meyer, also was home at the time of the fire and later died. Charges against Duane Meyer were filed in October 2019.

On Tuesday, Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock said his office would need at least three weeks to reply to DeRango’s request.

“We just received this. We need time to reply,” Rock said.

Roe set the next court date for 9 a.m. March 26.

At a hearing in December, DeRango said that because of the “cyberdata age” there were hundreds of “antiquated file formats” that the defense team was trying to review.

In the motion filed Tuesday, DeRango asks for “disclosure of reports and summaries, draft or final” and “any and all reports of any examinations or tests.” DeRango also is seeking a written summary of testimony he said prosecutors intend to use, as well as any report from FBI analyst Joseph Raschke, who is expected to testify during the trial.

“The summaries should describe the witnesses’ opinions, the bases and the reasons therefore,” according to the motion.

It also asks for additional information about “Call Detail Record” as it would have been provided to law enforcement from the carrier.

“Without this disclosure, defense counsel cannot adequately prepare his challenge to Raschke’s qualifications and opinion,” the motion reads. It also asks for Raschke’s “specific” training that qualifies him to interpret the data.

In a September 2022 hearing, Rock and Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Leisten said Raschke was a member of the FBI’s cellular analyst support team and had “plotted the estimated locations” of Meyer’s cellphone on Oct. 18 and 19, using methods he has employed in hundreds of cases.

Such analytical evidence has been allowed in state and federal courts for well over a decade, and Raschke has testified multiple times as an expert in cell-site analysis, despite defense objections, Leisten told Roe at that hearing.

He cited several cases involving Raschke in which the reliability of cell-site analysis and Raschke’s qualifications to perform such an analysis were upheld.

It would be “preposterous” for a court in Ogle County to disallow evidence and expert testimony that’s been ruled admissible over and over again in state and federal courts, Leisten said.

In September 2023, DeRango petitioned prosecutors for any data obtained by electronic service providers, internet service providers, mobile phone carriers and digital investigation platforms.

After receiving that information, DeRango requested and received a continuance, telling Roe that he needed more time for his expert to review the reports and data provided by prosecutors.

Leisten said the state had provided the defense with “major forensic copies,” including phone records and text messages.

In January 2023, DeRango entered 21 motions in limine and asked that they be sealed before debate in open court.

During a May 2023, hearing, DeRango asked Roe to exclude information gathered by the prosecution from being presented to a jury, arguing that some of it was “irrelevant” or would be “prejudicial” to his client.

The purpose of a motion in limine, Latin for “on the threshold,” is to determine whether certain evidence may be presented to the jury.

Motions in limine commonly are entered and argued before a trial begins, allowing evidentiary questions to be decided by the judge. The motions are made by attorneys when seeking to exclude certain evidence from being presented to a jury.

Some of the motions pertain to crime scene photos, autopsy photos, internet searches, cellphone photos, text messages between Meyer and others, surveillance videos of vehicles and comments made to police officers during the investigation.

Prosecutors have argued that the evidence is relevant and, based on case law, should be allowed, adding that “the jury can weigh the evidence.”

DeRango said there were 6,000 pages of discovery and more than 1,000 text messages between Meyer and a friend before the deaths. He said the messages were made amid a “contentious divorce,” and he argued that some of the messages were taken out of context and should not be allowed as evidence.

Prosecutors have disagreed, arguing that the messages showed it was a “planned homicide” and showed “what was going on in the defendant’s mind.”

Roe has yet to rule on all the motions in limine.

Maggie (Rosko) Meyer, a teacher at the Chana Education Center, filed for divorce in 2014. Court records show that the divorce was finalized in September 2016.

The hearing was one of many since murder charges were filed in October 2019.

In November 2022, Roe ruled that Duane Meyer’s cellphone records would be allowed as evidence at the trial.

Meyer remains at the Ogle County Correctional Center on a $10 million bond. A trial date has yet to be set.

• Reporter Kathleen Schultz contributed to this story.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.