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State v. Blunkall

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 5, 2015


Session July 15, 2014

Direct Appeal from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 2013-CR-35 Lee Russell, Judge

Robert S. Peters, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Lee Blunkall.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.



I. Factual Background

At trial, P.R.[1] testified that she lived in Estill Springs with her four minor children: the victim, B.J., who was fourteen years old and was born on May 5, 1999; S.J., who was ten years old; E.J., who was four years old; and A.R., who was five months old.

P.R. said that on Monday, April 30, 2012, the victim was twelve years old, was in seventh grade, and was in special education classes. The victim could not tell time, do math, or understand anything but simple words. Additionally, the victim had difficulty understanding complex questions.

P.R. said that on April 30, she woke her children, got ready for work, and got the victim and S.J. ready for school. Around 6:30 a.m, she drove the victim to the house of her maternal grandmother, E.W., in Winchester so the victim could catch the bus for school. The victim was supposed to ride the bus back to E.W.'s house after school. That afternoon, P.R. received a call from E.W., who said that the victim had gotten into a car with someone E.W. did not recognize and was missing.

P.R. contacted the victim's father, who said that he had not seen the victim. P.R. went to E.W.'s house and called the police. The police came to E.W.'s house, spoke with the witnesses, then issued a missing child report.

P.R. said that the victim usually carried a deactivated cellular telephone. P.R. called Verizon and had the telephone activated in an attempt to locate the victim. Throughout the night, P.R. and other family members repeatedly called the victim's telephone and sent text messages but to no avail.

P.R. said that the next morning, May 1, 2012, E.W. called and told her that the victim had been found on the side of the road by a neighbor and taken to Southern Tennessee Hospital. When P.R. arrived at the hospital, the victim had a scratch on one eye and a painful knot on top of her head. The victim said that she had been raped. She "told more than one story about how things happened . . . [, and] some of those stories weren't true." The victim told her mother that she was afraid to reveal the identity of the rapist; however, "[e]very story [the victim] said always came back to [the appellant]. It would give different ways of how she left and where she stayed, but everything came back to [the appellant]." The victim also said that she and the appellant went to the Walking Horse Motel. P.R. did not know the appellant prior to this incident.

P.R. said that the following day, she took the victim to the Children's Advocacy Center in Nashville for an examination. P.R. later learned that the victim and the appellant had talked on the telephone and sent each other text messages for approximately one year. The appellant was listed in the contact list on the victim's cellular telephone as "Baby Boy."

On cross-examination, P.R. said that the victim spent a lot of time with E.W. P.R. got the victim a prepaid cellular telephone for emergencies, believing the victim would be responsible with it. The victim did not use the telephone responsibly; therefore, about two months prior to April 30, P.R. had the telephone service changed so that the victim could not make or receive calls or send text messages. Nevertheless, the victim contacted the appellant by using other people's telephones without P.R.'s knowledge. When P.R. examined the contact list on the victim's telephone, she found the names of several boys and girls who the victim said were friends from school. P.R. denied that the victim was "boy crazy." P.R. did not know whether the victim sent text messages to boys.

E.W. testified that she lived in a small neighborhood on Cotton Street. A church, a graveyard, and a liquor store were all within walking distance of her house. On April 30, 2012, the victim rode the bus to E.W.'s house after school, arriving at approximately 4:10 p.m. Afterward, the victim used E.W.'s cellular telephone, purportedly to call her father.

After the call, the victim went outside with her cousin Austin to play. Around 5:00 p.m., Austin returned to E.W.'s house, but the victim did not. At that time, E.W.'s niece, Rosa Burks, called and said that the victim had been at the church nearby, that she had gotten into a green car, and that she had left. Burks asked if the victim had permission to leave, and E.W. replied that she did not. E.W. got into her van and tried to locate the green car, but she could not. E.W. then called P.R. to report that the victim was missing. Thereafter, they reported the victim's disappearance to the police. The victim's family drove around all night looking for her. When E.W. checked her cellular telephone, she learned that the text messages the victim had sent immediately prior to her disappearance had been deleted.

E.W. said that at approximately 8:00 a.m. on May 1, 2012, she was driving down Cotton Street and met her neighbor, Linda Joyce Johnson. Johnson stopped her vehicle, and E.W. saw that the victim was with Johnson. The victim told E.W. that she had been raped, and E.W. took her to the emergency room (ER) at Southern Medical Center. E.W. notified P.R. and the police that the victim had been found.

On cross-examination, E.W. said that the victim spent a lot of time with her. She did not know the victim was using her telephone to contact boys, but she later learned the victim had contacted the appellant with her telephone on the day of her disappearance.

The victim testified that her date of birth was May 5, 1999, and that she lived with her mother, stepfather, and siblings. On April 30, 2012, the victim was twelve years old and in the seventh grade. Approximately one year earlier, she got the appellant's telephone number from the contact list on her older cousin Misty's telephone. She began "sneaking" and exchanging text messages with the appellant. She told him her name, age, and the name of her school. The appellant said that his name was "Chris Moore, " that he was in his 20s, and that he was employed. The appellant sent the victim photographs of his face and his penis. The victim sent the appellant photographs of her face. He asked her to send photographs of her vagina, but she refused.

The victim said that she and the appellant decided to meet each other. The victim told the appellant that she loved him, and he responded in kind. She said they referred to each other by the nickname "Baby." The appellant also offered to buy the victim a necklace. They first saw each other at a movie theater in Winchester. They did not speak because Misty was there. Later, they made plans for the appellant to come to Winchester and "take [the victim] away from there." The victim thought that she and the appellant would "be together from that point on" and that they "would start a life together."

The victim said that on the morning of April 30, she went to E.W.'s house then rode the bus to school. While she was at school, she used a cellular telephone she had stolen from her cousin Austin to exchange text messages with the appellant about his coming to school to get her. However, when the appellant sent a message saying he was at the school, the victim could not leave because teachers were outside watching. At the end of the school day, the victim rode the bus to E.W.'s house. She used E.W.'s telephone to send text messages to the appellant, and they ultimately arranged for him to meet her at the nearby church. The victim erased the text messages before returning the telephone to E.W. Afterward, the victim told E.W. that she was going for a walk. She took with her a bag containing some clothes and her deactivated cellular telephone.

The victim said that after she met the appellant at the church, he went to a "drive-thru" of a bank to obtain money. Later, they went to a Burger King restaurant before ending up at a motel, the "Horse Lodge, " in Lewisburg. The appellant paid cash for the room, which was located upstairs. In the room, they sat on the couch, talked, and watched television. Afterward, the victim sat on the bed and removed her shirt and pants but kept on her bra and panties. The appellant completely undressed. The appellant did not put on a condom, but he put "some gooey stuff" from a bottle on his penis. The victim said that the appellant penetrated her vagina with his penis and that it "hurt." Afterward, they cleaned up and got dressed. The appellant sat on the couch most of the night, drinking and smoking. The victim slept in the bed.

The victim said that when she woke around 5:00 a.m., she looked at her cellular telephone and noticed she had received numerous text messages and had missed a lot of calls. One of the messages, which was from her mother, indicated that the police were looking for the victim. Soon thereafter, the victim and the appellant left the motel room. The appellant drove to a shed in "some woods" where the appellant said he lived. The victim pulled out her cellular telephone to send her mother a text message. The appellant got angry, took the telephone from her, and threw it out the car window. The appellant said he wanted her to walk with him, and they got out of the car. The appellant pushed her and hit her on the head.

The victim said that following the altercation, they got back into the car. The victim went with him because he said that he was sorry and was going to take her home. The appellant left her at a church behind a Food Lion in Winchester and drove away. The victim started walking back to her house and was picked up by her neighbor, Johnson. The victim said that she got into the car, started "telling her . . . lies, " and revealed that she had been raped. They met E.W., and the victim got into E.W.'s van. E.W. called P.R. and the police to inform them that the victim had been found, then she took the victim to the hospital.

The victim said that when she spoke with employees of the Department of Children's Services (DCS), police detectives, and her mother, she told them that she had been kidnapped by a group of men in a car, that they had taken her to the woods, and that they had raped her. She said that she lied because she was afraid she would get in trouble.

On cross-examination, the victim acknowledged that she had not only sent text messages to the appellant but also to other boys. The victim said that she deleted the appellant's photographs and text messages expressing his desire to have sex with her. She was "pretty sure" that she had deleted most of the text messages they sent each other.

The victim acknowledged that she had given eight conflicting stories about what happened following her disappearance. She first told a detective that several people took her to a wooded area and raped her. She then said that a man named Chris White was with her in a motel in Manchester. Next, she said that "White became angry, grabbed [her] phone, threw it across the yard and tied her up, hands and feet, with rope, placed tape over [her] mouth in the driveway of the house." She later said that White did not tie her with rope but that he did put tape over her mouth. Her fifth version was that White had tape and threatened to put it over her mouth but did not follow through. Other versions were that White did not rape her and that she and White "stayed on the top floor in room 316 at a motel in Manchester." She ...

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