Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs September 20, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 97142 Bob R.
Defendant, Steven Jeffrey Pike, was convicted by a Knox
County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated
murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014). He
received a life sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the
evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2)
the trial court erred by admitting his statements to the
police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Liddell Kirk (on appeal) and Gregory P. Isaacs and Andrea
Mohr (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Steven Jeffrey Pike.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Charme P. Allen, District
Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Alan E. Glenn, J.,
H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.
case relates to the January 15, 2011 killing of Angelo
Gradillas, who was beaten to death at the home of Alma Pike,
the Defendant's grandmother.
Savage testified that on January 15, 2011, she lived across
the street from Ms. Pike. She said that she arrived home at
about 3:00 a.m., that she heard a door open, and that she saw
someone entering Ms. Pike's house. Ms. Savage stated that
she went upstairs and got into bed and that she heard "a
lot of ruckus and yelling." Ms. Savage said that she
looked out the window and saw the Defendant yelling and
holding a cell phone. Ms. Savage heard the Defendant say,
"=N-----, I'm gonna kill you.' And something
about you don't do that to a girl, or you don't treat
a girl that way."
Savage testified that she watched the Defendant for a while,
that she returned to her bed, and that she heard the
Defendant yelling again, possibly a woman's voice, and a
car driving away. Ms. Savage said that she looked out the
window again and saw a "shadow" pacing at the
house. Ms. Savage stated that she thought a woman was driving
the car leaving Ms. Pike's house. Ms. Savage said that
she had seen the Defendant with his girlfriend at the house
previously. Ms. Savage said that she heard a truck without a
muffler pass the house two or three times within ten minutes.
She stated that when she awoke, police cars were parked
outside her house.
cross-examination, Ms. Savage testified that she thought only
the Defendant was home because only two or three cars were
parked in the driveway and that she heard cars coming and
going that night.
recording of a 2:27 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury.
In it, an unidentified man told the dispatcher that his
friend Angelo "beat the s--- out of me" and that
Angelo was beside him. The man told a second man in the
background, "You don't do me like that, " and
the two men argued loudly. The man said, "Look at me,
look the f--- at me, dude, " and the second man
responded, "I didn't do it." The speaker said,
"Then who the f--- did it?" The second man
responded, "I don't know, you did it, I didn't
do it." The man told the dispatcher that he did not
require medical attention, that he wanted Angelo to leave,
that no weapons were in the house, and that they had been
drinking "a little bit." The man began arguing with
the second man and told him he was "lucky as f---, I
don't give a f--- .... Bring all your n------.... I will
kill your a---." The second man said that the man was
not going to kill him, and the man reiterated that he was
going to "kill you, b----." The man told the second
man that he got blood on his carpet and that he should leave
the man's house. The dispatcher hung up because the man
was not responding to questions.
recording of a 2:46 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury.
In it, the Defendant identified himself and told the
dispatcher that Angelo "came over here . . . [and] beat
my a--." The Defendant said that he did not need an
ambulance and that he wanted Angelo "picked up."
The Defendant stated that he wanted to file charges against
Angelo, that Angelo had left his location, and that he knew
where Angelo lived. The Defendant confirmed that he was at
his home and said that he had already reported the assault in
a previous 9-1-1 call. The Defendant said that no deputies
had responded to his first call and that he wanted the police
to respond more quickly. The Defendant stated that he knew
his call was not important because it was "just a fight,
" that he had been drinking earlier in the evening, and
that he did not deserve to be beaten.
recording of a 3:35 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury.
In it, an unidentified woman, who reported living across the
street from Ms. Pike, told the dispatcher that she heard a
disturbance involving multiple vehicles in her subdivision.
She said that a "truckload" of young men drove down
the street and took off their shirts, that the men were
driving and walking in the neighborhood's driveways, and
that the truck was a "silver-ish" Ford. She said
that the young men were leaving the neighborhood and that one
of them went into a house across the street from her house.
She referenced a group of young men who were "juniors
and seniors" and who had previously caused disturbances
in the neighborhood.
recording of an 8:17 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury.
In it, the Defendant identified himself and told the
dispatcher without emotion that he was at a Krystal
restaurant and requested that the police come to arrest him.
When asked why he wanted to turn himself in, the Defendant
said that he would rather not discuss it. The dispatcher told
the Defendant that the police would not arrest him without an
outstanding warrant, and the Defendant responded that he had
killed someone earlier in the day. The Defendant told the
dispatcher that he was wearing blue jeans covered in blood
and a black hooded sweatshirt, that he knew the location of
the victim's body, and that he was unarmed.
County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Monroe testified that about
3:00 a.m. on January 15, 2011, he and another deputy
responded to a disturbance complaint at Ms. Pike's house.
Deputy Monroe stated that he noticed that the complainant,
the Defendant, had a cut over his left eye and a knot on his
forehead. The Defendant was intoxicated and told the deputies
he and a friend had fought. Deputy Monroe said that although
the Defendant initially seemed confused as to why his friend
hit him, the Defendant later told the deputies he and his
friend liked the same woman. The Defendant refused medical
attention and requested to make a report in order to
prosecute his friend. Deputy Monroe said that he told the
Defendant he could call the deputies the next day when the
Defendant was sober, that the Defendant refused to take
Deputy Monroe's telephone number and said he would not
call back the next day, and that the deputies left. Deputy
Monroe stated that the Defendant was "pretty angry"
and upset but was polite. Deputy Monroe said that the
Defendant understood the deputies' questions and
instructions and that he seemed to be aware of what was going
on around him.
recording from Deputy Monroe's police cruiser camera was
played for the jury. The recording depicted the interaction
between Deputy Monroe, his partner, and the Defendant and was
consistent with Deputy Monroe's testimony. Deputy Monroe
testified that he returned to the Defendant's
neighborhood around 3:46 a.m. due to a noise complaint from a
neighbor and that the neighborhood was quiet. Deputy Monroe
said he noticed a silver car in the Defendant's driveway
that was not present during his first visit.
cross-examination, Deputy Monroe agreed that the Defendant
was injured when he spoke to the deputies and that the
Defendant told them the victim had beaten him. Deputy Monroe
acknowledged that he was concerned about the Defendant's
being intoxicated. Deputy Monroe agreed that a few minutes
after he left the Defendant, a neighbor made a noise
complaint about individuals at Ms. Pike's house. Deputy
Monroe identified a photograph of a cut on the
Defendant's forehead and the photograph was received as
redirect examination, Deputy Monroe testified that the
Defendant was able to open the door for the deputies, that
the Defendant refused medical attention, and that the
deputies accompanied the Defendant inside to ensure no one
else was in the house. Deputy Monroe said that the house was
"pretty neat" and that the Defendant characterized
the person who hit him as his friend. Deputy Monroe said that
he did not have a reason to think the Defendant and the
victim were in a romantic relationship. Deputy Monroe stated
that he did not feel the Defendant was in danger because he
told the deputies the victim had left the area. Deputy Monroe
said that the Defendant never expressed fear to the deputies.
Deputy Monroe stated that when he returned to the
neighborhood, he was there to determine whether several males
in a silver truck were screaming and yelling as they drove
through the neighborhood. He said that when he arrived, the
neighborhood was quiet and that he did not think he needed to
knock on the Defendant's door.
County Sheriff's Deputy Roger Morgan testified that he
went to a Krystal restaurant around 8:24 a.m. in response to
the Defendant's 9-1-1 call in which he said he had killed
someone and wanted to surrender himself. Deputy Morgan said
that when he arrived, the Defendant stood in a grassy area
beside the parking lot, that the Defendant wore blue jeans, a
black hooded sweatshirt, and tennis shoes, and that the
Defendant's blue jeans and shoes were covered in blood.
Deputy Morgan stated that Deputy Capley restrained the
Defendant, that the Defendant was cooperative, and that the
Defendant's demeanor was calm. Deputy Morgan said that
the Defendant appeared to understand the deputies'
questions and did not appear intoxicated. Deputy Morgan
stated that he spent between fifteen and twenty minutes with
the Defendant before driving the Defendant to Ms. Pike's
house. Deputy Morgan said that the Defendant cried "a
little bit" when they left Krystal but otherwise
Morgan identified four photographs of the Defendant and the
clothing he wore at the time of his arrest. The
Defendant's blue jeans and his shoes were heavily
splattered with blood. The Defendant had a cut on the left
side of his forehead and a few small scratches on his hands.
Deputy Morgan testified that the Krystal restaurant to which
he responded was about one mile from Ms. Pike's house.
County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Capley testified that he
responded to Krystal with Deputy Morgan. Deputy Capley said
that when the deputies arrived, the Defendant stood under a
sign, that the Defendant turned his back to the deputies and
put his hands in the air, and that the Defendant had a
"significant amount of blood" on his clothing.
Deputy Capley stated that he asked the Defendant if he was
injured, that the Defendant said the blood was not his, and
that the deputies handcuffed the Defendant and
"Mirandized him at that time." Deputy Capley said
that the Defendant had a visible head injury and was calm,
although "he was a little reluctant . . . [and]
didn't want to tell us what he had done." Deputy
Capley stated that the Defendant was placed in Deputy
Morgan's car, that the deputies met with their
supervisors, and that the group went to Ms. Pike's house.
Deputy Capley said that Deputies Morgan and Sharp went inside
the house while Deputy Capley supervised the Defendant.
Deputy Capley stated that the Defendant did not cause any
Merrell testified that he considered the victim to be his
best friend, that he had known the victim for ten years, and
that he met the Defendant on the night before the
victim's death. Mr. Merrell said that he picked up the
victim around 4:00 p.m., that they planned to go to the
Southbound nightclub later in the evening, that they shopped
and ate dinner, that Mr. Merrell drove his mother's
silver Kia Rio, and that while they were at a restaurant, the
victim spoke to the Defendant on the telephone. Mr. Merrell
stated that the Defendant "very adamantly said . . . my
grandma's out of town, we could all crash [at her house]
and hang out[.]" Mr. Merrell said that at about 9:30
p.m., he, the victim, and another friend, later identified as
Jordan Kuzne, drove to Ms. Pike's house and that Mr.
Kuzne drove a truck. Mr. Merrell stated that he, the victim,
the Defendant, Mr. Kuzne, and Blake Wallace "hung out
and drank a little bit, " that they left and went to
Brittany Covington's apartment, and that they went to
Southbound. Mr. Merrell stated that about 11:30 p.m., he
became separated from the victim and the Defendant, that the
victim had Mr. Merrell's car keys, that the victim and
the Defendant left without him, and that Mr. Merrell, Mr.
Kuzne, and Mr. Wallace obtained a ride to "the strip,
" where the three men went to two other bars and looked
for a ride to Ms. Pike's house. Mr. Merrell later said
that the victim and the Defendant left Southbound about 2:00
a.m. Mr. Merrell noted that it was not unusual for the victim
to drive Mr. Merrell's car. Mr. Merrell said that they
rode to Ms. Pike's house in the bed of a man's white
Ford pickup truck around 3:30 a.m. Mr. Merrell stated that
the truck was noisy. He said that the driver of the truck
dropped off the men and "peeled out and left."
Merrell testified that when they arrived, the house was as
they had left it and that the Defendant and the victim were
present. Mr. Merrell said that "the night was pretty
much over, " that the men prepared to go to sleep, that
he and Mr. Wallace decided to stay the night at Mr.
Wallace's house, and that the group, apart from the
Defendant, acted normal. Mr. Merrell stated that the
Defendant had a "big knot on his head, " that
"they" had already been in a fight, and that the
Defendant was adamant that Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wallace leave
and the victim stay because the victim had plans to meet the
victim's girlfriend in the morning. Mr. Merrell said that
the Defendant put his hands on Mr. Merrell's and Mr.
Wallace's shoulders and separated them from the victim,
that the men could not talk to the victim about why he and
the Defendant fought, and that the Defendant said, "He
busted my head. We're friends. It's no big
deal." Mr. Merrell stated that he asked the Defendant
two or three times whether the Defendant and the victim would
fight if he and Mr. Wallace left and that the Defendant
assured Mr. Merrell they would not fight. Mr. Merrell said
that the Defendant "was very normal about it. He was
just very cool and collected . . . and just wanting me and
[Mr. Wallace] to leave." Mr. Merrell stated that at the
last moment, the victim decided to stay because his
girlfriend planned to pick up the victim from Ms. Pike's
Merrell testified that when he left the house, the Defendant
did not seem intoxicated "past the point to where he was
slurring his words . . . or stumbling or anything like that .
. . . [He] did not seem to be completely inebriated or
intoxicated at that time. He was not any more intoxicated
than anybody else." When asked whether the Defendant
seemed angry, Mr. Merrell said, "Not at all, which was
very weird and just did not seem right . . . he didn't
seem angry, but he was very loud and he continued to not want
[the victim ] to speak . . . . [It] was a very weird, eerie
feeling[.]" Mr. Merrell stated that the victim did not
indicate he wanted to talk to Mr. Merrell and that the victim
"seemed like he was trying to hide it, whatever had
happened . . . because [the Defendant] would not give him the
space for him to be able to speak to us to tell us what had
happened." Mr. Merrell said that the victim did not have
a car or a cell phone.
Merrell testified that to his knowledge, the victim and the
Defendant were acquaintances but were not "good
friends." Mr. Merrell said that the victim's
girlfriend was pregnant and that the victim dated multiple
women simultaneously. Mr. Merrell stated that the
victim's demeanor was normal when they were at Southbound
and that when the victim was at Ms. Pike's house, he was
quiet and calm but acted uneasy. Mr. Merrell said that the
victim stated he was going to sleep and that the victim
walked Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wallace to the door. Mr. Merrell
agreed that the victim shaved his body hair and said the
victim was "metrosexual." Mr. Merrell denied that
the victim was homosexual and said that the victim was not
cross-examination, Mr. Merrell testified that the victim
would often "crash" with various friends, including
Mr. Merrell. Mr. Merrell stated that when he arrived at Ms.
Pike's house, he drove the group to a liquor store, that
he bought a "handle" of vodka and a "large
magnum" of wine, and that the group drank moderately.
Mr. Merrell did not see anyone drinking at Ms.
Covington's house. Mr. Merrell agreed that he, the
Defendant, and the victim drank vodka and that Mr. Merrell
smoked marijuana. Mr. Merrell said that the victim acted
normal and that he did not notice the victim's being
especially intoxicated. Mr. Merrell acknowledged that he
continued drinking at Southbound and at the other bars he
visited. Mr. Merrell estimated that he had about ten drinks
over the course of six hours and said that for him, it was a
moderate night of drinking.
Merrell testified that he remembered the night's events
in spite of his drinking and that he thought the victim
"was definitely [with]holding information from us."
Mr. Merrell stated that he had heard the recording of the
Defendant's first 9-1-1 call and that he recognized the
victim's voice in the background. Mr. Merrell said that
when he returned to the house, the Defendant was less
intoxicated than he was in the 9-1-1 recording. Mr. Merrell
maintained that he did not consider the Defendant intoxicated
because he did not stumble or slur his words, although Mr.
Merrell later said that the Defendant was not sober. Mr.
Merrell stated that the Defendant told him the victim had
"busted my head" a few times.
Merrell testified that he and Mr. Wallace were not permitted
to talk to the victim and denied that the victim expressed
fear of being arrested because the Defendant called the
police. Mr. Merrell said that the victim and the Defendant
never told Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wallace about the argument or
about the 9-1-1 calls. Mr. Merrell denied that his
intoxication affected his perception of the Defendant's
level of intoxication.
Merrell testified that he, the victim, and all of their
friends shaved their body hair. Mr. Merrell said that there
was "very little" of the victim's life of which
he was not aware. Mr. Merrell denied that he was equally or
more intoxicated than anyone in the group. On redirect
examination, Mr. Merrell said that on the evening of January
14, the victim drank an average amount of alcohol based upon
his usual habits.
Wallace testified that he considered the victim to be his
best friend, that he had known the victim for six or eight
years, and that although Mr. Wallace had seen the Defendant
previously, he did not know him personally. Mr. Wallace said
that he saw Mr. Merrell at Southbound, that he and Mr.
Merrell were good friends, and that Mr. Wallace saw the
victim come in briefly and leave. Mr. Wallace said that a
friend gave them a ride to another bar between 12:30 a.m. and
1:30 a.m. Mr. Wallace stated that the friend left and that
he, Mr. Merrell, and two other men obtained a ride to Ms.
Pike's house with some "bar friends" in a large
red truck. Mr. Wallace did not remember whether Jordan Kuzne
rode with them.
Wallace testified that when they arrived at Ms. Pike's
house, the Defendant met them outside, that the Defendant was
shirtless and had a gash over his eye, and that the Defendant
said he and the victim "got into a scuffle." Mr.
Wallace said that he asked the Defendant, "[A]re you all
cool, " and that the Defendant told him everything was
fine. Mr. Wallace stated that he went into the house and
asked the victim whether he punched the Defendant and that
the victim said he punched the Defendant because the
Defendant "kept like poking him . . . when he was
asleep[.]" Mr. Wallace said that no one seemed angry and
that he thought everything was all right. Mr. Wallace stated
that after about an hour, he and Mr. Merrell left together,
that the victim and the Defendant were not arguing or angry,
and that Mr. Wallace felt comfortable leaving the victim
Wallace testified that although the group had been drinking,
none of them were "extremely intoxicated, " and
that they drank almost every weekend. He said that the
Defendant was able to understand what was happening, that the
Defendant knew Mr. Wallace's name, that the Defendant was
not stumbling, and that the victim also acted normal.
cross-examination, Mr. Wallace testified that he arrived at
Southbound around 11:30 p.m. and that he did not drink before
he arrived. Mr. Wallace denied that his memory was hazy or
foggy, although he said that his memory was not as good as it
was on the date of the incident. Mr. Wallace stated that he
was at Southbound for no more than two hours and that he
briefly saw the victim between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m. Mr.
Wallace agreed that the victim drank heavily and that it was
apparent the victim had been drinking. Mr. Wallace said,
though, that the victim drank every day, that the victim had
a high alcohol tolerance, and that Mr. Wallace had never seen
the victim extremely intoxicated, vomiting, or unconscious as
a result of drinking. Mr. Wallace agreed that he saw Mr.
Merrell but denied that Mr. Merrell appeared intoxicated. Mr.
Wallace said that he drank beer at Southbound and that he did
not see Mr. Merrell drink there. Mr. Wallace stated that he
did not see the Defendant until he arrived at Ms. Pike's
house. Mr. Wallace said that after he left Southbound, he did
not accompany the group to another bar. Mr. Wallace stated
that the bars closed at 3:00 a.m. and that he went to Ms.
Pike's house between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.
Wallace testified that everyone at the house acted normal and
seemed "kind of sober . . . it was just kind of one of
those nights." Mr. Wallace said that he felt sober and
thought he could have driven. Mr. Wallace stated that the
victim did not appear to be intoxicated. Mr. Wallace
remembered telling a police officer that the Defendant acted
"the most intoxicated, but he was just acting weird all
the way around. He was . . . patting [the victim] on the leg
. . . getting all close to him and s---, that stuff normal
guys don't do[.]" Mr. Wallace said, though, that he
would not say the Defendant was the most intoxicated person
in the room and that he saw the Defendant as "the
strangest and doing things that I'm normally not used to
doing[.]" Mr. Wallace denied that he characterized the
Defendant's actions as affectionate and said that he
characterized the actions as "homosexual." Mr.
Wallace recalled telling the police that he speculated the
cause of the fight between the Defendant and the victim was
that the Defendant made a sexual advance toward the victim.
Mr. Wallace stated that when he lived with another man, the
victim stayed overnight once and that Mr. Wallace had never
seen the Defendant at the man's house. Mr. Wallace said
that he told the police about an incident two years before
the victim's death in which "a guy [at a bar]
slapped [the victim] on the a--." Mr. Wallace said that
the victim hit the man and that the only time Mr. Wallace saw
the victim fight was when a man made a sexual advance toward
redirect examination, Mr. Wallace testified that at Ms.
Pike's house, the victim did not appear angry when the
Defendant touched him. Mr. Wallace stated that
"everybody was being friends" and that no one was
arguing when he left the house.
Maner testified that she had previous romantic relationships
with the Defendant and the victim, that she remained friendly
with both men, and that she believed the men were friends.
Ms. Maner estimated that the victim and the Defendant had
known each other between six and eight months before the
victim's death. Ms. Maner said that on the evening of
January 14, she went to Southbound and that she saw the
victim and the Defendant together. She stated that she spoke
briefly with the victim, that their conversation was
friendly, and that the victim and the Defendant seemed to be
having a good time. Ms. Maner agreed that the men appeared to
have been drinking, that they were coherent, and that they
Maner testified that when she arrived home around 3:30 a.m.,
she returned a call from the Defendant and that she thought
the victim answered. She said that the conversation was
friendly until suddenly, the victim called her a
"whore." Ms. Maner stated that she thought he
referred to her relationship with the Defendant, that she
told the victim she wanted to speak to the Defendant, that
the victim handed the telephone to the Defendant, that the
Defendant asked her if everything was okay, and that she told
the Defendant everything was fine. Ms. Maner said that at one
point, Mr. Wallace was handed the telephone and said hello.
She stated that the conversation lasted about fifteen minutes
and that she heard music and male voices in the background.
She said that it sounded as though the men were having a
party and a good time. Ms. Maner denied that the victim and
the Defendant argued or sounded angry. Ms. Maner said that
"at some point" in the early morning, the victim
stopped by her house when she was not there and that she
thought he wanted to stay overnight with her. Ms. Maner
stated that her friend was at the house with Ms. Maner's
daughter and that Ms. Maner did not know whether the victim
was alone when he came to her house. Ms. Maner said that the
victim did not own a car or a cell phone and that she did not
know how he traveled to her house. Ms. Maner denied the
victim was homosexual.
cross-examination, Ms. Maner testified that her romantic
relationship with the Defendant occurred "recently"
before the victim's death. Ms. Maner said that she was
aware the Defendant and the victim were roommates for an
unknown period of time. Ms. Maner agreed that the Defendant
and the victim talked frequently, were friendly, liked to
drink alcohol, and "looked out for each other as friends
would[.]" Ms. Maner stated that although she and the
Defendant were physically intimate for a time, they were not
"dating, " and that after she and the Defendant
ended their relationship, she started dating the victim. Ms.
Maner said that she knew the victim well, that she ...