Law enforcement leaders in Concord, N.H., are standing by their decision to get cellphone location data without a search warrant last year to track down Logan Clegg, a suspect in the apparently random murder of a retired couple on a popular walking trail.
Clegg, 27, faces second-degree murder charges for the fatal shootings of Stephen Reid, 67, and Djeswende Reid, 66. He’s accused of moving their bodies, burning his tent and campsite, and destroying information on his laptop after the April 2022 slayings, which set the community on edge as detectives spent months piecing together their case before making an arrest.
Now that Clegg’s trial is scheduled for July, his defense attorneys are arguing that authorities violated his constitutional rights when they pinged his cellphone shortly before his arrest in October 2022. They asked a judge to suppress all evidence that was collected as a result of the cellphone data grab, including what police learned by questioning Clegg after they tracked him down in Burlington, Vt.
During a hearing Wednesday in Merrimack Superior Court in Concord, the law enforcement leader who supervised detectives in the case testified that his team followed protocol and acted appropriately in light of the circumstances.
Concord police Lieutenant Marc McGonagle said investigators obtained a phone number for Clegg on Oct. 11, and they knew he had purchased a ticket for a flight from New York to Berlin that would leave three days later, so they needed to move quickly to keep him from leaving the country.
At that time, police still hadn’t found a murder weapon, so they presumed Clegg was armed, McGonagle said. What’s more, the apparent randomness of these alleged murders led police to believe Clegg was a clear danger to others, he said.
“I believed that Logan Clegg was an immediate threat to the public,” he said.
Based on that determination, rather than asking a judge to sign off on a search warrant for Clegg’s cellphone location data, police used an exigent circumstances protocol to ask Verizon for the information directly. Within 24 hours, Clegg was in custody.
McGonagle testified that it is typical for a search warrant process to take two to three weeks. He said he has never gotten results through a search warrant process within three days, let alone a single day. He said the decision to contact Verizon directly was prompt and appropriate in light of the circumstances.
Verizon handled nearly 68,000 emergency requests from US law enforcement agencies for customer data in 2022 — that’s about 186 such requests per day — according to a transparency report from the company. Other major carriers, including T-Mobile and AT&T, similarly field emergency requests from law enforcement.
But Clegg’s legal team, public defenders Maya Dominguez and Caroline Smith, argued that police acted illegally and lacked exigent circumstances to justify the data request. They noted that Clegg was arrested Oct. 12 on an outstanding warrant from Utah, not the Concord double-murder investigation.
“Probable Cause to arrest him for the murders did not exist,” Dominguez and Smith wrote in their motion to suppress. “This is evidenced by the fact that the police did not seek a warrant for his arrest until after he had been apprehended. In fact, information gained because of his apprehension was used in the eventual New Hampshire arrest warrant affidavit.”
Clegg was indicted in January on eight charges related to the slayings. An additional charge was added in May.
Shortly after the Reids were reported missing, Concord police encountered a man in the woods who identified himself as Arthur Kelly, and they determined he had been living there, according to court records. Police came back after the bodies were found, but the man’s tent site had been abandoned.
Police were unable to confirm the man’s identity as Arthur Kelly. They nicknamed him “Mountain Dew Man” because he had been carrying several cans of the drink when they met him. Those cans turned out to be key evidence in their investigation. They reviewed video surveillance from a nearby Walmart that showed a man buying Mountain Dew on the day the Reids were reported missing.
That man appeared to make dozens of visits to the store in the months leading up to the fatal shootings. On the morning after the Reids were killed, the man bought a tent, sleeping bag, and bottle of rubbing alcohol, according to a police affidavit. He was not seen at the store again after April 20, 2022, which was two days after the shooting.
McGonagle explained during Wednesday’s hearing how investigators concluded that Clegg was Mountain Dew Man. The shopper, who consistently wore the same clothes, would pay for his items in a self-checkout lane using either cash or prepaid debit cards, he said.
Although the prepaid cards didn’t bear Clegg’s name, police tracked down information about other retailers where the cards had been used. They included an online order from BulkSupplements.com, with a shipment in Clegg’s real name and a delivery location at the FedEx location inside Walgreens on Loudon Road in Concord, McGonagle said.
That’s how police discovered Clegg’s name, enabling them to launch a thorough background check, he said. They found an active warrant out of Utah, and they saw he had been investigated in a 2018 stabbing death in Washington where authorities concluded he had acted in self-defense.
McGonagle said booking photos from Clegg’s prior encounters with law enforcement appear to match a sketch that authorities released of a person of interest a month after the killings in Concord.
“When I looked at it side by side, it was eerily similar,” he said.
As the Globe reported in November, Clegg was a drifter who rarely had a permanent address after he left high school in Colville, Wash., in 2014 without finishing his senior year. He earned a GED, lived in tents, worked at McDonald’s, and often carried large sums of cash. He also traveled internationally. He used a US passport and had a Romanian passport card under the name Claude Zemo.
Hearings on the defense team’s motions to suppress evidence, which were live-streamed by WMUR-TV, lasted about five hours on Wednesday and five hours on Thursday, and they were scheduled to resume Friday morning.
The bulk of Wednesday’s hearing had McGonagle on the stand answering questions from prosecutors and defense attorneys. For Thursday’s hearing, it was Concord detective Wade Brown in the hot seat. Brown fielded questions about what exactly he said to Clegg after he was tracked down and taken into custody. Many of the questions centered on precisely how Brown informed Clegg of his rights.
Clegg’s defense attorneys argue that he asserted his right to silence but police “failed to scrupulously honor that assertion.” In a court filing, they wrote that investigators sought “through subtle pressure or trickery” to keep Clegg talking.
Clegg, who has been held without bail since his arrest, was handcuffed and wore a bright orange T-shirt as he sat silently throughout the hearings. He huddled with his attorneys for a brief conversation after Wednesday’s hearing before bailiffs led him out of the courtroom.
This story was updated Thursday to include additional information. Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.
Steven Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @reporterporter.