The murder case against a man in the death of a Maplewood woman almost 27 years ago will continue to move forward after a Ramsey County judge denied defense motions to dismiss the charges.

District Judge Edward J. Cleary granted in part motions to suppress evidence taken from the town house that Barbara Winn shared with the suspect, Aaron W. Foster, and her three children. However, the judge allowed into evidence photographs taken of items that were in plain view in the bedroom where Winn died.

The judge also granted in part a motion to suppress some of the statements Foster made to police after he was put into the back of a squad car.

Cleary had harsh words for the Maplewood Police Department in a memorandum filed with his order.

Officers did not read Foster his rights; did not get a search warrant before seizing evidence; did no further investigation after prosecutors initially declined to bring charges, and lost or destroyed evidence in a possible homicide, the judge said.

"The conduct of the Maplewood Police Department as it pertains to the investigation of the death of Barbara Winn, was unprofessional, irresponsible and inexplicable," Cleary wrote. "The public in general, and the members of Ms. Winn's family in particular, deserved better."

Winn, 35, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest in the early morning hours of May 8, 1981. Foster told police that she shot herself, then asked him to get rid of the gun. Winn's family has contended all along that Foster shot her.

The case went uncharged until 2007, when the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office reopened the investigation. A grand jury indicted Foster on charges of third-degree murder in November.

The case is being prosecuted by the Anoka County attorney's office to avoid a conflict of interest. Prosecutor Deidre Aanstad declined to comment on the judge's ruling Wednesday, saying, "We are still set for pretrial in May and trial in July. As to the strength of the case, I cannot and will not comment on that."

Defense attorney Earl Gray said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn't read the judge's memorandum yet but was pleased as far as he could tell.

"We were successful in suppressing evidence we wanted suppressed," he said.

Foster's next court hearing is scheduled for May 22.

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551