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State v. Melton

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 22, 2016


          Assigned on Briefs October 25, 2016 at Knoxville

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Overton County No. 2013-CR-5 David A. Patterson, Judge

         Travis Dewayne Melton ("the Defendant") appeals his Overton County convictions for reckless homicide and assault, for which the Defendant received an effective sentence of four years' incarceration. The Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on lesser included offenses when the Defendant requested that the trial court not charge any lesser included offenses; (2) his dual convictions for assault and reckless homicide violated double jeopardy principles; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Michael R. Giaimo, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Dewayne Melton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Bryant C. Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Derek K. Smith, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This appeal involves the shooting death of Donnie Wayne Tayes ("the victim") following an incident at the Defendant's home in the early morning hours of September 17, 2012, involving the Defendant, the victim, and the victim's wife, Angel Tayes. Based upon the events of that morning, the Overton County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for the following offenses:





First Degree Premeditated Murder

Donnie Wayne Tayes


Aggravated Kidnapping

Angel Tayes



Angel Tayes



Angel Tayes

         At trial, Brad Tayes testified that he and his girlfriend, Rachel Barnes, were at the Defendant's residence on September 16, 2012, until about 8:00 p.m. when his sister-in-law, Angel Tayes, arrived with groceries for the Defendant. As he left the Defendant's trailer, Mrs. Tayes told Brad[1] that the victim was "at home asleep." Around midnight that same night, the victim called Brad and asked if he had seen Mrs. Tayes. Brad told the victim that he had seen Mrs. Tayes at the Defendant's residence earlier that evening. When the victim asked for a ride to the Defendant's house, Brad told the victim that he would have to ask Ms. Barnes because he did not have a driver's license. However, when he got off the phone, Brad went back to bed and did not wake up Ms. Barnes. About an hour later, the victim called again and said, "[A]re you going to take me nor not . . . it's my wife." Brad and Ms. Barnes picked up the victim and took him to the Defendant's residence. When they arrived, the victim jumped out of the window of Brad's truck, went to the front door of the Defendant's trailer, and kicked the front door open. Brad then saw the victim inside the Defendant's living room talking to Mrs. Tayes. Brad told Ms. Barnes that he did not want to get involved because he had to work the next day, so they went home.

         Brad testified that the victim did not have any weapons when they arrived at the Defendant's residence on the morning of September 17, 2012. He explained that, a few days before this incident, the victim asked him if the Defendant and Mrs. Tayes were having a sexual relationship. Brad told the victim that he "didn't think that nothing [sic] was going on." Brad stated that the victim initially agreed that he would get his car from the Defendant's residence and go home. However, when they arrived at the Defendant's trailer, the victim got "really upset." Brad acknowledged that the victim was known to carry a knife, but he stated that he did not see the victim with one that morning.

         Rachel Barnes[2] testified that, on the night of the shooting, the victim called her and Brad between midnight and 1:00 a.m. and asked for a ride to "find his wife." When Ms. Barnes and Brad picked up the victim, he appeared "[f]rustrated." The victim said he wanted to get his car, wallet, and cigarettes from Mrs. Tayes and then return home. However, when Ms. Barnes drove the victim to the Defendant's residence, the victim jumped out of the truck window as soon as she pulled into the driveway. The victim went to the front porch, looked in a window, and then kicked in the front door. Ms. Barnes saw the victim talking to someone sitting on a couch in the living room. The victim then sat in a chair, leaving the front door "wide open." Ms. Barnes stated that she saw no other cars in the Defendant's driveway when she pulled in. She further stated that she never saw the victim with weapons that morning. Ms. Barnes acknowledged that the victim was concerned that his wife was having an affair with the Defendant. She explained that because Brad had to go to work later that day that she and Brad left the victim at the Defendant's residence and returned home.

         Angel Tayes testified that, before his death, the victim began abusing pills and had "done meth a couple of times." Beginning in March 2011, Mrs. Tayes also noticed that the victim was having "personality issues" and seizures, but they did not know the cause of these problems. She stated that the victim had more than one personality and that the victim would refer to himself in third person. She explained that one of the victim's personalities was "him as a child and he was scared a lot and he would . . . cry." Mrs. Tayes stated that something would "trigger one of the different personalities to come out" and that she had seen different personalities from the victim fifteen to twenty times. She further stated that, even though some of the victim's "personalities" were violent, the victim never saw a psychiatrist about this problem. Mrs. Tayes recalled that, on the night of the homicide, the victim "spoke with a different accent" and "in a different language."

         According to Mrs. Tayes, she and the victim went to the Defendant's trailer on the morning of September 16, 2012, to do their laundry because the water at their house had been cut off. After a few hours, Mrs. Tayes and the victim began "bickering, " and Mrs. Tayes decided to drop off the victim at their residence while she went grocery shopping for the Defendant. Mrs. Tayes went to a grocery store and then stopped at a market to buy cigarettes and beer for the Defendant. When she returned to the Defendant's trailer between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., the victim's brother, Brad, was there. However, Brad left the trailer shortly after she returned.

         Mrs. Tayes testified that she had known the Defendant for six months before the victim's death. She admitted that, about a month before the homicide, she and the Defendant had sex one time while the victim was in jail and she was "really intoxicated." She recalled that the victim "could see a connection" between her and the Defendant, and the victim was suspicious of their relationship. However, she denied having sex with the Defendant on the night of the shooting. Instead, Mrs. Tayes stated that she "lost track of time" while talking to the Defendant and folding laundry. The Defendant told her that he needed to take a shower, and she fell asleep on the couch in the living room.

         Mrs. Tayes stated that she woke up when the victim "kicked the door in." The victim accused Mrs. Tayes of having sex with the Defendant. When Mrs. Tayes denied his accusation, the victim went to the Defendant's bedroom and yelled at the sleeping Defendant to "wake up." When he got no response from the Defendant, the victim again accused Mrs. Tayes of having sex with the Defendant, and she continued to deny it. The victim asked Mrs. Tayes "why [she] would do this to him[, ]" and he began pacing back and forth in front of the couch. Mrs. Tayes recalled that a friend of the Defendant's "showed up" around this time and knocked on the front door. When the victim started talking to the Defendant's friend, Mrs. Tayes went out to her car. Eventually, the friend left, and she and the victim went back inside the Defendant's residence.

         Once inside, the victim "started talking differently[.]" According to Mrs. Tayes, he began speaking with an Irish accent and referring to himself in third person. The victim asked Mrs. Tayes how she "could hurt Wayne like that[.]" The victim said "he had told [her] before if [she] ever hurt Wayne again he would kill [her]." The victim then pinned Mrs. Tayes to the couch and began choking her. Mrs. Tayes fought the victim and yelled for the Defendant. She testified that she almost "blacked out a couple of times, " and she thought that the victim was going to kill her.

         Mrs. Tayes recalled that, at one point, the victim allowed her to use the restroom. When she returned to the living room, the victim retrieved a machete from the Defendant's front porch, and the victim said he was going "to kill [the Defendant] with it[.]" The victim set the machete down behind a speaker in the living room, sat in a chair, and told Mrs. Tayes to "come here." At that time, the Defendant's friend returned to the trailer, and he spoke to the victim. Mrs. Tayes went into the Defendant's bedroom and hit the Defendant on the leg "as hard as [she] could . . . to wake him up." The victim then told Mrs. Tayes to "come here." Mrs. Tayes initially told the victim "no" and picked up the machete. However, the victim forced her sit on his lap and put the machete to his neck. He told her, "go ahead, kill Wayne." Mrs. Tayes testified, "I remember the last thing that he said to me was you're going to kill Wayne tonight. And I looked at him and I said, no, I'm not. And he looked towards the [Defendant's] bedroom and he said, oh, but he will." Mrs. Tayes took the machete from the victim and put it behind the television. When the victim came towards her, she ran towards toward the bathroom. At that time, the Defendant came out of his bedroom with a rifle and yelled at the victim, "[W]hat the hell are you doing in my house[?]" The victim ran out the back door of the trailer, and the Defendant followed him. Mrs. Tayes testified that the Defendant stood on his back porch and shot the victim. She stated that the victim did not threaten the Defendant; the victim opened the back door and "took off running." She further stated that the victim did not have the machete, and she did not believe that the victim had any other weapons with him.

         Mrs. Tayes recalled that she went outside and saw the victim lying in the yard, face down. The victim was moaning, and he was still breathing. She put her hand on his back to try to stop the bleeding, and she told the Defendant that they needed to call 911. However, the Defendant replied, "[H]ell no, we don't." Mrs. Tayes pulled out her cell phone from her pocket and walked towards the road to attempt to flag down a car. Mrs. Tayes could not get a cell phone signal inside the Defendant's trailer, and she knew that "there was one spot in the driveway that you could get a signal." When she told the Defendant that she was calling 911, the Defendant threatened, "[G]ive me the . . . phone before I f***ing shoot you." She walked back towards the Defendant and told him that she had dropped her phone. However, the Defendant grabbed her arm, bent it over a fence in the yard, and said he was going to "break [her] f***ing arm" if she did not give him the phone. In their struggle over the cell phone, the Defendant bent over and bit Mrs. Tayes's nose, and it started bleeding. She gave the Defendant her cell phone, and he threw the phone, breaking it. Mrs. Tayes went back to the victim and tried to roll him over. However, the Defendant told her to go inside the trailer and would not let her stay outside with the victim.

         Mrs. Tayes testified that the Defendant did not help the victim or call 911, despite having a landline at his residence. The Defendant told her that they had to "get this s*** straight" before calling the police. At that time, deputies arrived at the residence and began knocking on the front door. Mrs. Tayes answered the door and initially told the deputy that she was okay. However, she then walked out the front door and told the deputies that the victim was in the back yard, that he might still be alive, and that the Defendant had shot him. Mrs. Tayes testified that she never heard the victim tell the Defendant that he was going to kill him, and she did not see the victim make any movements toward the Defendant. Moreover, she testified that the victim had no weapons at the time he was shot.

         On cross-examination, Mrs. Tayes stated that it was well-known that the victim had a drug problem. She also acknowledged that the victim was suspicious of her relationship with the Defendant, and the victim confronted her about the nature of their relationship. She agreed that she had been trying to make the victim jealous on the night of the shooting. She stated that the victim was upset and angry, and when he pinned her down on the couch and choked her, she thought the victim would kill her. Mrs. Tayes reiterated that the victim said he was going to kill her, the Defendant, and himself.

         Mrs. Tayes stated that the victim became angry when she refused to sit on his lap a second time. He came toward her as she was standing in front of the Defendant's bedroom. She said that she feared for her life and was trying to get away from the victim. She stated that, when the Defendant came out of the bedroom with the rifle and went after the victim, the Defendant's back was towards her. She recalled that, after the Defendant shot the victim, she went outside and began screaming for help. The Defendant refused to call 911, and he said, "I'm not going to jail for this s***." Mrs. Tayes testified that the Defendant pointed the rifle at her when she was outside by the fence. She stated that she believed the Defendant would have killed her if she had not come back into the trailer at that point. She stated that, once they went back inside the residence, the Defendant prevented her from going back outside to the victim.

         Mrs. Tayes stated that she had four children and was currently in a custody battle with her mother-in-law. However, she denied that the custody battle influenced her testimony in any way. She agreed that it had been well-known that the victim liked "throwing knives" and usually had knives with him. However, she stated that, after she woke up the Defendant, the victim did not threaten her or the Defendant with any weapons. She stated that she woke up the Defendant because she "believed he would help [her]. [She] didn't believe he would kill [the victim]."

         Christa Wilson testified that on September 17, 2012, she lived on Hanging Limb Highway in a rural area in Overton County. Mrs. Wilson explained that she awoke in the early morning hours after hearing a "very loud gunshot followed by screaming." Through the open windows of her home, Mrs. Wilson heard a woman screaming, "[O]h, my God, oh, my God, " and "he's okay, he's okay." She then heard a man say, "No, he's not, he's dead, I shot him dead, see all that blood, I shot him dead." Mrs. Wilson testified that the woman wanted to call for help, but the man threatened to "break her arm" if the woman called anyone. Mrs. Wilson stated that the voices were "very clear" and were coming from next door behind the Defendant's trailer. However, she could not see anything because it was still dark outside, and most of the lights inside the trailer were off.

         On cross-examination, Mrs. Wilson testified that she provided law enforcement with a written statement a few hours after the shooting, and she acknowledged that the written statement did not mention the man's saying, "I shot him dead." She agreed that it was possible that she did not remember things exactly as they had happened because she was testifying two and a half years after the shooting. Mrs. Wilson stated that cell phone service in the area where her home was located was "[h]orrible, " and she recalled that the man and woman were arguing over a phone. She said that she had included in her written statement that the man threatened to break the woman's arm "if she didn't give him the phone."

         Mrs. Wilson's husband, Robert Wilson, testified that early in the morning of September 17, 2012, he was working in his living room when he heard "a very loud gunshot." Mr. Wilson went into his bedroom, which faced the Defendant's trailer, and heard a woman screaming about "blood and someone being shot." The woman sounded "very distraught" and scared, and Mr. Wilson could also hear a man's voice. Mr. Wilson recalled that the man and woman were talking about a phone and that it sounded like they were struggling over something. The woman said that they "needed to get help, " but the man said, "[N]o." Mr. Wilson then heard the man threaten to break the woman's arm and to "do to her what he did . . . to him." Mr. Wilson called 911 and relayed to the dispatcher what was happening. On cross-examination, Mr. Wilson testified that he heard the man say, "[H]e's dead, I shot him." Mr. Wilson acknowledged that he had no line of sight from his bedroom window and that he could not see what was happening. He explained that he and Mrs. Wilson had no cell phone service at their home and that they used "internet phones."

         Deputy Brenda Keisling with the Overton County Sheriff's Department testified that she arrived at the Defendant's residence at 5:25 a.m. When she arrived, she noticed that there were no lights on inside the trailer. Deputy Keisling knocked on the front door several times, and the occupants of the trailer turned on the lights. Mrs. Tayes then opened the front door, holding a bloody towel up to her face. Mrs. Tayes was crying, and she had marks on her nose and neck. When Deputy Keisling asked if she was okay, Mrs. Tayes started to hyperventilate and could not talk. Deputy Keisling saw the Defendant sitting on a couch in the living room and asked the Defendant if he was the one "who had fired the shot, " and the Defendant said that he had. Deputy Keisling testified that she asked Mrs. Tayes to step outside to talk, but she was unable to take a statement from Mrs. Tayes because Mrs. Tayes was too upset.

         Deputy James Elliott with the Overton County Sheriff's Department testified that he arrived at the Defendant's residence immediately after Deputy Keisling. As Deputy Keisling was approaching the front door, Deputy Elliott went to the back of the residence where he noticed the victim lying in the back yard. The victim was "not responsive at all" and appeared to be dead. When Deputy Elliott went back around to the front of the residence, Mrs. Tayes came out of the house saying, "[H]elp me . . . he is in the back yard." Mrs. Tayes had a bloody rag in her hand and marks on her nose, eye, and cheek, and she appeared "frantic" and "distraught." Deputy Elliott told Deputy Keisling about the victim in the back yard, and they removed the Defendant from the residence. Deputy Elliott asked the Defendant what was "going on, " and the Defendant calmly responded, "[N]othing." Deputy Elliott contacted his superior officer and EMS. He then entered the residence and secured a rifle, which he located in a closet in a back bedroom. Deputy Elliott testified that, when he removed the Defendant from the residence, he did not observe any injuries to the Defendant.

         Claude Stephens, a Critical Care Paramedic for Overton and Fentress County, testified that he was dispatched to the Defendant's residence on Hanging Limb Highway on the morning of the shooting. When he arrived, a deputy told him that EMS was needed behind the residence. There, Mr. Stephens found the victim lying face down in the yard. The victim had no pulse, and he was "very cold, kind of stiff in his extremities." Mr. Stephens noted what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the right side of the victim's back. Mr. Stephens then rolled the victim over and found a wound to the victim's chest. After retrieving a cardiac monitor from the ambulance, Mr. Stephens checked the ...

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