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State v. Brown

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 20, 2014


Assigned on Briefs August 19, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Bradley County No. 12-CR-059 Honorable Carroll L. Ross, Judge

Richard Hughes, Cleveland, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Russell Brown.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; and Stephen Hatchett, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, J., and David A. Patterson, SP. J., joined.



This appeal stems from the stabbing death of the victim, Harold Montgomery, in the early morning hours of January 1, 2012. The Defendant was subsequently indicted on charges of aggravated arson and first degree premeditated murder. The following proof was adduced at trial.

State's Proof.

On January 1, 2012, the Defendant turned himself into the Cleveland Police Department for the murder of the victim. The Defendant consented to a buccal swab, which was administered by Lieutenant Brian Pritchard of the Cleveland Police Department. Lieutenant Pritchard did not observe any signs of intoxication by the Defendant, such as slurred speech or an odor of alcohol. He also did not observe any injuries to the Defendant. Lieutenant Pritchard did not perform a blood test or rape kit on the Defendant.

Detective Andy Wattenbarger of the Cleveland Police Department gathered evidence and took photographs at the crime scene, a motel room at the Days Inn motel in Cleveland, Tennessee. A number of photographs depicting the motel room where the murder occurred were shown to the jury. Detective Wattenbarger confirmed that a fire had occurred inside of the motel room, but there was no evidence of an electrical fire as the cause. When he arrived on the scene, the victim had been removed from inside of the motel room and was lying on the sidewalk covered by a sheet. Inside of the room, Detective Wattenbarger found cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and alcohol. Detective Wattenbarger also found a glass pipe used to smoke crack cocaine in the victim's car, which was discovered by police in another location. On cross-examination, Detective Wattenbarger agreed that the victim was "soaked with water" as a result of first responders extinguishing the fire inside the motel room. He also agreed that evidence could have been washed away by the water and destroyed by the fire.

Detective Shane Clark, a crime scene technician with the Cleveland Police Department, collected anal and penile swabs taken by the medical examiner at the autopsy of the victim. These samples were submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations ("TBI") for analysis and were admitted into evidence.

Ben Atchley, the Fire Marshall for the Cleveland Fire Department, conducted an arson investigation at the Days Inn motel. Mr. Atchley testified that the fire in this case started at the foot of the bed in the victim's motel room and resulted in a "pretty significant fire." He believed that had the fire department not been called in time to extinguish the fire, the fire had the potential to spread from that single room to the entire motel. In the course of his investigation, Mr. Atchley found nothing to indicate that this fire was not intentionally set. On cross-examination, Mr. Atchley agreed that the victim was not on the bed when the fire was set.

Detective Matt Jenkins of the Cleveland Police Department recovered the victim's car in Niota, Tennessee on the property of Raymond McDermott, the Defendant's uncle. The car was parked in a wooded area about 150 to 200 yards off Mr. McDermott's driveway. Detective Jenkins stated that based on his experience with stolen vehicles, the victim's car was "without a doubt" parked in that area in an attempt to hide it.

Bill Patel, the owner of the Days Inn motel in Cleveland, Tennessee, testified that he did not give the Defendant permission to set a fire in the motel room and confirmed that there were other guests staying at the motel on January 1, 2012. He estimated that the damages to the Days Inn motel caused by the fire totaled approximately eight or nine thousand dollars.

Dr. Christopher Lochmuller, a forensic pathologist and Chief Deputy Medical Examiner at the Regional Forensic Center, performed the autopsy on the victim and was tendered as an expert in forensic pathology. Dr. Lochmuller opined that the victim's cause of death was multiple stab wounds and the manner of death was homicide. According to Dr. Lochmuller, the victim suffered 19 total stab wounds. Two wounds, a stab wound to the neck that struck the victim's carotid artery and a stab wound to the chest that punctured his lung, were fatal and would have resulted in the victim's death within "minutes" if left untreated. However, with medical attention, the victim likely would have survived all of his wounds. Dr. Lochmuller testified that as a result of the wounds to his neck and chest, the victim's lungs filled with blood and likely would have caused him to make "gurgling" noises. He noted that the victim did not have any burn injuries and confirmed that the victim died from his stab wounds and not from smoke inhalation. Dr. Lochmuller collected anal, penile, and oral swabs from the victim, which he gave to Detective Shane Clark to submit for analysis. On cross-examination, Dr. Lochmuller testified that the victim's blood test revealed that cocaine and painkillers had been recently ingested by the victim prior to his death. The effects of such drugs include euphoria, excitement, restlessness, risk taking, sleep disturbance, and aggression. Dr. Lochmuller noted that the drugs were not at toxic levels, and the victim would have maintained the ability to function.

Special Agent Jennifer Millsaps of the TBI was tendered as an expert in the field of serology and DNA analysis. She conducted the DNA analysis of the items submitted by the Cleveland Police Department, which included an anal and penile swab from the victim. The anal swab from the victim revealed the presence of spermatozoa, with the predominate DNA profile belonging to the Defendant and the minor DNA ...

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