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State v. Crites

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 4, 2015


Assigned on Briefs April 22, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. IICR0161122 James G. Martin, III, Judge

Sandra L. Wells, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mark A. Crites.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Kim Helper, District Attorney General; and Kelly Lawrence, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.




This case arose after the defendant threatened the victim with a hammer and stole his cell phone. The victim and the defendant resided in the same trailer park. The victim lived on Lot 21, and the defendant lived across the street on Lot 26. On the morning of the incident, the victim testified that he was in his yard with his friend Jorge. The defendant entered the yard wielding a red metal hammer. He advanced on the victim, striking the hammer against the road and the yard before swinging it at the victim. He was cursing and shouting at the victim, demanding the victim's money. The defendant was saying, "M**********er, I'm going to kill you." The victim did not hear the defendant say anything about a sexual assault. To the victim, the defendant appeared as though he had been using drugs.

As the defendant advanced, the victim began to back away from him. The victim was "very scared, " as the defendant appeared to be "a very desperate person." The victim attempted to mollify the defendant by offering to give him five dollars. The defendant refused, instead demanding "everything" that the victim had.

Once the defendant "let his guard down, " the victim was able to run to his truck. The defendant was standing beside the truck, and the victim did not immediately drive away because he was afraid that he would run over the defendant. He rolled down the driver's side window in a final effort to talk to the defendant and to calm him down. He attempted to assuage the defendant's anger because he feared for his own life and he feared that the defendant might damage the truck, which had been loaned to the victim. The victim removed his cell phone from his pocket and placed it in his lap. The defendant raised the hammer above his head, reached into the truck, and grabbed the cell phone from the victim's lap. The victim then drove away from the trailer park and went to a nearby convenience store, where he called 911.

Several police officers from the Franklin City Police Department responded to the call. Officer Nick Grandy arrived at the scene, and he testified that the victim had been identified as "Miguel Lopez." He spoke with the victim, and the victim directed him to a trailer on Lot 26. Officer Grandy entered the trailer, and the defendant was not present. Officer Grandy saw the defendant's name on the living room wall, and he found a prescription pill bottle with the defendant's name and the address for Lot 26. He also saw a "red claw hammer with a black rubber grip" in the kitchen.

Detective Andrew Green also arrived at the scene. He spoke with the victim, who told him that his neighbor had approached him while holding a red hammer, demanded his money, and reached into his truck and stole his cell phone. The victim was not able identify his neighbor by name at the scene, but he provided a detailed description of his neighbor, including his numerous tattoos, to Detective Green. Officers were later able to identify the defendant as the man from the victim's description. At trial, Detective Green identified the victim in the courtroom as the same person that he spoke with on the day of the incident.

Detective Green went to the trailer on Lot 26 and spoke with Officer Gandy. While in the trailer, he too saw a red hammer lying on the kitchen countertop.

The following day, Officer Sam Greer was dispatched to the trailer park after receiving a call regarding the victim's cell phone. He spoke with Pam Sweeny, the defendant's sister, who gave him a cell phone that she said did not belong to her. She was given the phone by her son, the defendant's nephew, who told Officer Greer that the phone was located "inside the first trailer on the left" of the trailer park. The defendant's nephew had retrieved the phone after the defendant told him of its location. Ms. Sweeny told Officer Greer that the "robbery scenario" reported by the victim was inaccurate and that the defendant had informed her that the incident involved the defendant's attempt to confront the men who allegedly sexually assaulted his girlfriend. The victim later verified that the cell phone given to Officer Greer was his.

Officer Greer informed Detective Green that he had obtained the defendant's cell phone number, and Detective Green called the number. The defendant answered, but he identified himself as "Dustin Hampton." The defendant, as Dustin Hampton, told Detective Green that the defendant had not robbed anyone and did not own a hammer. He claimed that the victim was lying about the robbery and that the incident was a result of a sexual assault against his girlfriend.[1]

The defendant was arrested the next day, and Detective Green recognized the defendant's voice from their phone conversation. The defendant admitted that he had been the person speaking to Detective Green and said that he gave a false name because he was afraid of being arrested. After waiving his Miranda rights, the ...

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