Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs August 12, 2014
Direct Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2011-A-269 Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge
Ryan C. Caldwell (on appeal) and Dale Quillen (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brian ONeal Elliott.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Kathy Morante, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., JJ., joined.
NORMA McGEE OGLE, JUDGE
I. Factual Background
The appellant was charged with the first degree murder of Miguel Tobias. Subsequently, he agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder. The plea agreement provided that the trial court would determine the length of the appellant's sentence.
At the guilty plea hearing, the State recited the following factual basis for the plea:
[O]n April 16th, 2010, the victim Miguel Tobias (phonetic) was on the porch of 3710 Ezell Road in Davidson County with another individual. It was mid afternoon, and a car approached the house and stopped. Mr. Tobias went to see what the individuals wanted. When he got close to the car, the front passenger rolled down the window and shot multiple times killing Mr. Tobias. The victim's wife was in the house and heard the shots as did the couple's three young children. The police responded and began their investigation. They learned the make, model, and partial plate number of the car. They later determined that it belonged to Trevarius (phonetic) Maples. As the investigation continued, the detective assigned to the murder learned that there had been a report of a rape at that location. Sex abuse detectives confirmed that the rape had been reported at that same location on or about April 12th, three days before the homicide. The victim of that rape was fourteen-year old [P.E.]. After learning this information, the homicide detectives spoke with [P.E.] and her mother. [P.E.] told the detectives that on April 12th, 2010, she and a friend skipped school and went to 3710 Ezell Road where a cousin of [P.E.'s] friend resided. While they were there [P.E.] was raped by a man. She reported the rape to the police immediately, and the police determined that the man who raped [P.E.] was Romel Roberto Guafarro (phonetic).
On April 16th, 2010, [P.E.'s] uncle, [the appellant], picked her up from middle school. Trevarius Maples was driving the vehicle. When [P.E.] got in the car, [the appellant] instructed her to show them where the rape occurred. They drove down Ezell Road, and [P.E.] pointed out the house at 3710 Ezell. They drove past the house, and [the appellant] then instructed Maples to stop the car. [The appellant] got out of the car and retrieved a gun. Maples then drove back to 3710 Ezell. When the car pulled up to the house, there were two men on the porch, one of which was the victim, Miguel Tobias. As Mr. Tobias was walking up to the car, [P.E.] cried out that he was not the man who had raped her. [The appellant] nonetheless rolled down the window and shot Tobias causing his death.
I would note that if the case had gone to trial today the State would have severed the two defendants. Maples would have testified as [P.E.] would have testified, that [P.E.] clearly told [the appellant] the man was not her rapist before he was murdered. The proof would also show that the victim looked nothing like the rapist. The victim was an average height and weight whereas the rapist weighed over 250 pounds.
Damaris Santiago, the victim's wife, testified at the sentencing hearing that she and the victim had three children, whose ages were twelve, ten, and seven years. At the time of the shooting, she and the children were inside the house at 3710 Ezell Road. Mrs. Santiago heard two gunshots but did not think anything was wrong until one of the victim's friends came inside and told her to come outside. She walked outside and saw the victim lying on the ground.
Mrs. Santiago said that the victim was friendly, funny, and sweet and that he loved his children. After the victim's death, the children required therapy. Their ten-year-old son continued to have trouble ...