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State v. Thompson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 1, 2016


          Session March 8, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. F-13595 Larry B. Stanley, Jr., Judge.

         Chad Ray Thompson ("the Defendant") was indicted by the Warren County Grand Jury for one count of first degree premeditated murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of especially aggravated robbery in connection with the death of his cousin, Tracy Allen Martin ("the victim"). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to show premeditation for his first degree premeditated murder conviction and that there was insufficient evidence to prove the underlying felony of especially aggravated robbery for his first degree felony murder conviction. Upon review, we conclude that the Defendant is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed.

          Robert S. Peters, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chad Ray Thompson.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Lisa Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Randall Gilliam and Thomas Miner, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.




         Tonya Debuty, the victim's sister, testified that the victim was "like a child to [her.]" She explained that the victim suffered from bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and "a form of schizophrenia[.]" The victim lived in a camper located on Ms. Debuty's property in Etowah for three years. The victim was unable to maintain employment, so Ms. Debuty helped the victim enroll for Social Security disability benefits. Ms. Debuty also had power of attorney to manage the victim's finances and was designated as the payee for his disability benefits. The victim eventually was awarded a lump sum disability payment of about $20, 000.

         The victim eventually moved to McMinnville, where he lived with Ms. Debuty's ex-husband and his sister, Ozella Craven. He later moved in with his aunt, Teresa Thompson. After the victim had moved, he called Ms. Debuty and asked for the remainder of his lump sum disability payment. Ms. Debuty stated that about $12, 000 remained from the lump sum payment. She explained to the victim that she was responsible for his money and that she "couldn't just give it to him[.]" After speaking with representatives for the Social Security Administration, Ms. Deputy turned the money over to Social Security until a new payee could be appointed. Eventually, Ms. Craven was appointed as the new payee.

         Sometime later, Ms. Debuty received a call from Ms. Thompson informing her that the victim was missing and inquiring as to the whereabouts of the victim's money. During that conversation, Ms. Debuty also spoke with the Defendant, who asked about the whereabouts of the victim's money. On cross-examination, Ms. Debuty acknowledged that she knew the victim "had a methamphetamine habit" and that "he was hanging around with the wrong kind of people[.]"

         Ozella Craven testified that the victim "showed up at [her] house" approximately one to two weeks before his death. Ms. Craven understood that the victim wanted to move to the McMinnville area to be closer to his children. Ms. Craven stated that she agreed to serve as payee for the victim's disability benefits. In that capacity, Ms. Craven received a check in the amount of $11, 711.12 made out to the order of herself and the victim. Ms. Craven cashed the check and gave the money to the victim. The victim counted out $1, 300 and gave the rest back to Ms. Craven. Ms. Craven clarified that she did not count the money the victim had given her and did not know how much he actually took; she simply trusted him when he said that he took $1, 300. Ms. Craven then took the victim to a gas station so he could buy a can of gas to take back to his vehicle. The victim told Ms. Craven that he was going to his aunt, Teresa Thompson's, house "to take them out to eat." The victim returned the next day.

         Ms. Craven said she had bought the victim a handgun and a television using the money from his check. Ms. Craven gave the victim the gun when he returned, and the victim went with the Defendant, his cousin, to pick up the television. The victim then returned to Ms. Craven's house the next day asking for more money. He said he wanted to rent a U-Haul and that the Defendant was going to help him "pack up his stuff and put it on a U-Haul and bring it down here." Ms. Craven again saw the victim the next day at Wal-Mart. He was wearing a yellow and black jacket, blue jeans, and a black shirt with purple writing. Ms. Craven did not see the victim again after that.

         Ms. Craven learned the victim was missing when Ms. Thompson called to tell her that the victim had left her house with his money, gun, and two boxes of Sudafed and that she was worried. Ms. Craven also recalled that she saw the Defendant at the victim's funeral. There, the Defendant told Ms. Craven that the victim had said he kept his money in a lock-box at Ms. Craven's home, and he asked Ms. Craven if she still had it.

         Theresa Thompson testified that the victim was her nephew and that the Defendant was her son. She also stated that she called to report the victim missing. On cross-examination, Ms. Thompson said that she did not know of any "bad blood" between the victim and the Defendant. Ms. Thompson recalled that the victim brought a gun into her home, which made Ms. Thompson uncomfortable. She asked the victim to remove the gun from her house, and she did not see him again after he left.

         Officer Brad Hall of the McMinnville Police Department testified that he responded to a missing person call. When he arrived at the caller's residence, he spoke with the Defendant and the victim's aunt. Officer Hall stated that he did not take a formal report because the Defendant gave Officer Hall the impression that "it wasn't unlike [the victim] to just pick up and move, leave town." Officer Hall issued a "be on the lookout" ("BOLO") call for the victim.

         Eddie Youngblood testified that he and his son went fishing in Warren County in November of 2011. While they were fishing, he and his son noticed something that appeared to be the bottom half of a body on the bank. Mr. Youngblood initially thought it was a mannequin or "one of them blow-up dolls[.]" However, as he and his son approached the object, they discovered that it was a dead body and immediately called 911.

         Jason Rowland, an investigator for the State, testified that he responded to the scene after the 911 call. Investigator Rowland testified that the victim was found on a farm, roughly half a mile away from the road and that the scene could not be observed from the road. The victim was wearing a yellow shirt, blue "jogging pants[, ]" and a wedding band. Once the victim was removed from the water, Investigator Rowland checked his pockets for personal belongings and found that the victim had "absolutely nothing on him other than that wedding band and a watch[.]" Investigator Rowland also discovered that the victim had "some severe injuries to his head." The victim was transported to the hospital and then to the medical examiner for an autopsy. Investigator Rowland had also obtained the BOLO information for the victim before he went to ...

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