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State v. Bigoms

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 7, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
TONY EDWARD BIGOMS

          Session November 15, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamilton County No. 286393 Barry A. Steelman, Judge

         Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Tony Edward Bigoms, was convicted of premeditated first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, a Class E felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -17-312(a). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of imprisonment for life plus four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that jury separations occurred when the sequestered jury members were allowed to go to their individual homes, unsupervised, to pack their belongings at the start of the trial, were allowed to make phone calls to family members during the trial, and were allowed to visit with family members the day before the trial concluded; (2) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent regarding that agent's testimony during a previous murder trial at which the Defendant was acquitted; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting evidence found as a result of a warrantless search of the Defendant's cell phone; (4) that the State failed to prove venue by a preponderance of the evidence; and (5) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant's convictions.[1] Following our review, we conclude that jury separations occurred when the jurors were allowed to go home unsupervised and to make phone calls during the trial. Furthermore, we conclude that the State failed to meet its burden to show that no prejudice to the Defendant occurred during these separations. Additionally, we conclude that the admission of the TBI agent's testimony regarding the Defendant's previous murder trial violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b)'s prohibition against evidence of other bad acts and that this error was not harmless. Finally, we conclude that the trial court erred in admitting the evidence found on the Defendant's cell phone as that evidence was not relevant. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial. With respect to the Defendant's remaining issues, we will address those issues so as not to pretermit them. See State v. Parris, 236 S.W.3d 173, 189 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2007) (following a similar procedure).

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Reversed; Case Remanded

          Steven E. Smith, District Public Defender; Steve Brown (at trial); Jane J. Buffaloe (at trial); and Jay Underwood (at motion for new trial hearing and on appeal), Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Tony Edward Bigoms.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Senior Counsel; M. Neal Pinkston, District Attorney General; Lance Pope and Cameron B. Williams, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court. Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., filed a separate concurring opinion in which Timothy L. Easter, J., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         I. The Victim's Disappearance

         The victim, Dana Wilkes, was a "patient care technician" at Dialysis Clinic, Incorporated in Chattanooga. On November 9, 2012, the victim received her paycheck and worked a normal shift, leaving the clinic at 4:55 p.m. At approximately 7:20 p.m., the victim pulled into the parking lot of a Family Dollar to meet the Defendant. The Defendant got into the victim's green Jeep and, after a few minutes, they drove away. The Defendant and the victim then went to a local Walmart. The victim purchased some items and withdrew $240 from an ATM inside the Walmart. The Defendant and the victim left the Walmart at approximately 8:50 p.m. They then went to a nearby Murphy gas station. The Defendant pumped gas while the victim went inside and purchased some items, including a pack of cigarettes for the Defendant. The Defendant and the victim drove away from the gas station shortly after 9:00 p.m.

         The victim was scheduled to be at work by 5:30 a.m. on November 10, 2012. She never arrived at the clinic. The victim's supervisor, Leslie Brown, thought it was unusual that the victim did not show up or call. Ms. Brown repeatedly tried calling the victim that morning, but the victim did not answer. Ms. Brown grew concerned and she and another staff member drove to the victim's home. Ms. Brown noticed that the victim's Jeep was not parked outside of the home, but she did not go to the front door. Ms. Brown returned to the clinic. Around noon, she received a phone call from the victim's mother who was concerned about the victim. One of the victim's co-workers, Zeddie Pryor, saw the victim's Jeep on the side of the road near the Wilcox Boulevard Tunnel around 11:00 a.m. Ms. Pryor did not know that the victim was missing when she saw the Jeep. Later in the day, another co-worker informed her about the victim's disappearance and Ms. Pryor told the co-worker that she had seen the victim's Jeep that morning. A United States Postal Service employee also saw the victim's Jeep around 2:00 p.m. that afternoon.

         The victim's mother called the victim's son, Robert Preston Boulware, around noon on November 10, 2012, to tell him that she was concerned because the victim was not answering her telephone. Mr. Boulware tried calling the victim himself, and when he received no answer, he went to the victim's home. Mr. Boulware also noticed that the victim's car was not parked outside her home. Mr. Boulware found the front door unlocked. Mr. Boulware went inside the home. The victim's purse and keys were missing, but Mr. Boulware found the victim's insulin in the refrigerator. Mr. Boulware explained that the victim was diabetic and that she "always carried [insulin] in her purse" when she went out.

         At this point, Mr. Boulware was concerned enough to call the police and file a "missing person" report. Officer Charles Decker of the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) responded to Mr. Boulware's call around 4:00 p.m. Officer Decker spoke to Mr. Boulware in front of the victim's home, and Mr. Boulware told him that the victim "was [a] severe diabetic, " that she "was last seen the night prior at approximately 10 p.m., " and that her not showing up for work or answering her telephone "was abnormal." Mr. Boulware recalled telling Officer Decker that the victim's mother had last spoken to the victim the night before.

         After speaking to Officer Decker, Mr. Boulware went back to his home. Around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., he received a phone call from one of the victim's co-workers. Mr. Boulware was told that the victim's Jeep had been seen near the Wilcox Boulevard Tunnel. Mr. Boulware and his roommate went to check on the Jeep. The Jeep was unlocked and Mr. Boulware looked inside. On the driver's side, Mr. Boulware found the seat moved as close as possible to the steering wheel and a pillow in the seat. Mr. Boulware explained that the victim drove that way because she was very short. Mr. Boulware did not see the victim's keys or purse in the car. Mr. Boulware saw "blood that was kind of dripping down" the glove compartment when he looked at the passenger side. Upon seeing the blood, Mr. Boulware called Officer Decker.

         Officer Decker found Mr. Boulware waiting on him next to the victim's Jeep parked on the side of the road heading into the Wilcox Boulevard Tunnel. Officer Decker did not notice any blood in the area around the Jeep or on the outside of the vehicle. Officer Decker did observe "what looked to be blood spatter on the front passenger side of the vehicle." CPD Detective Reginald Parks was called to the scene when blood was found inside the victim's Jeep. Det. Parks arrived around 7:00 p.m. and walked around the Jeep looking for blood or other evidence. Det. Parks found nothing outside the Jeep. Inside the Jeep, Det. Parks saw "a noticeable amount" of what appeared to be dried blood. Det. Parks noted that the majority of the blood was located in the area of the front passenger seat. Det. Parks recalled that there were blood "smears on the dash board" and "some kind of spray of blood on the dash" and steering wheel. Det. Parks also noticed blood "on the console in between the seats" and more "smears of blood in the back seat and some on the doors on the passenger side."

         After the Jeep was discovered, Mr. Boulware and a CPD officer went back to the victim's home. While there, one of the victim's neighbors approached Mr. Boulware, said that he had the Defendant on the telephone, and that Mr. Boulware should speak to the Defendant because the Defendant had seen the victim the day before. Mr. Boulware told the Defendant that the victim was missing, and the Defendant responded that he had gone to Walmart with the victim the night before "to get stuff for a toilet." Mr. Boulware told the Defendant that they had found the victim's Jeep, but he did not recall telling the Defendant about the blood found inside the vehicle. Mr. Boulware asked the Defendant to call if he heard anything about the victim. The next day, November 11, 2012, the Defendant called Mr. Boulware around noon. The Defendant asked Mr. Boulware if he had heard from the victim and about what the police had said the night before about their investigation.

         On November 11, 2012, Det. Parks went to the Hamilton County jail to speak to the victim's husband, Tom Wilkes. Mr. Wilkes was a former patient at the clinic where the victim worked. He and the victim had been married for about a year prior to the victim's disappearance. At the time of the victim's disappearance, Mr. Wilkes had been incarcerated for approximately a week on a charge of driving while his license was revoked. Several of the victim's co-workers recalled having seen the Defendant at the clinic either with Mr. Wilkes or introduced to them by the victim as Mr. Wilkes's cousin. Mr. Wilkes died not long after the victim's disappearance.

         Based on his conversation with Mr. Wilkes, Det. Parks decided to speak to the Defendant. The Defendant told Det. Parks that he knew the victim and had spoken to her at Walmart on November 9, 2012. The Defendant also said that "he may have gotten a ride home" from the victim. The Defendant could not recall what the victim was wearing that night. The Defendant told Det. Parks that the victim had "said something about going to sell some pills, " but he could not provide any details about the alleged drug deal. Det. Parks told the Defendant that the victim's Jeep had been found, but he could not recall if he told the Defendant that blood had been found inside the vehicle. Det. Parks also did not recall any injuries on the Defendant "that jumped out at [him]" when he spoke to the Defendant on November 11th.

         II. The Police Investigation of the Defendant

         On November 12, 2012, Det. Parks decided to conduct a formal interview with the Defendant because "[h]is name came back up from a friend" of the victim's, Stephanie Coleman. Ms. Coleman "was extremely agitated about the conversation that she had supposedly had with" the Defendant. However, Ms. Coleman initially declined to be formally interviewed by Det. Parks because she was intoxicated when they spoke. The Defendant, however, did not object to the formal interview, and Det. Parks recalled that the Defendant seemed calm during the interview. The interview lasted for approximately forty-five minutes and was recorded. The recording of the interview was played for the jury at trial.

         During the interview, the Defendant told Det. Parks that the victim had been "acting her normal self" on November 9, 2012. The Defendant stated that the victim had called him after she had spoken to Mr. Wilkes that day and told him that she was having trouble with her sink. According to the Defendant, the victim met him at the Family Dollar, and they went to Walmart to look for the part he would need to fix it. The Defendant explained that the victim did not "know exactly where" he lived, so she arranged to meet him at the Family Dollar. The Defendant estimated that he met the victim around 6:00 p.m. The Defendant said that he got separated from the victim while they were inside the Walmart and that they had to call each other to find one another.

         The Defendant told Det. Parks that after they finished shopping at Walmart, he and the victim went to the Murphy gas station. The Defendant initially claimed that, after getting gas, the victim dropped him off at his girlfriend's apartment. Later in the interview, the Defendant said that the victim dropped him off back at the Family Dollar and that he walked back to his girlfriend's apartment. The Defendant told Det. Parks that he could not recall when the victim dropped him off or what she was wearing that night. The Defendant stated that he assumed the victim went home to put away the items she had purchased at Walmart and that he felt confident about that assumption because he had heard that those items were not found in her Jeep. The Defendant also said that he had not heard from the victim since that night.

         The Defendant claimed that while he was with the victim, she said that she was "supposed to been [sic] meeting somebody to sell some pills" and that "[s]he was waiting on the call or whatever." The Defendant told Det. Parks that the victim was supposed to have met earlier that day with someone named Chris who wanted to buy some pills, but that Chris never showed up. The Defendant also thought that the victim was going to meet "another guy, " but he did not know that man's name. The Defendant explained that Mr. Wilkes sold pills and that the victim would drive him to make the sales. The Defendant said that he had seen Chris at the victim's house before and also mentioned that one of Mr. Wilkes's regular customers was called Skip. The Defendant told Det. Parks that the victim had both her and Mr. Wilkes's cell phones with her that night. The Defendant denied that he had ever sold drugs for Mr. Wilkes and claimed that the victim did not deliver any drugs while he was with her.

         The Defendant admitted that he had been to the victim's home two or three times since Mr. Wilkes had been arrested. The Defendant denied that he was staying with the victim and had a key to her home. The Defendant also denied having a romantic relationship with the victim. The Defendant told Det. Parks that he was staying with his girlfriend and "trying to manage" his aunt's house since his aunt had been hospitalized. The Defendant also told Det. Parks that "some dude name[d] J.C. was calling" the victim and trying to convince her to move in with him while Mr. Wilkes was incarcerated.

         The Defendant said that someone named Pat had told him the victim's Jeep had been found. The Defendant sent Pat a text message that said the police "found a little blood over there on the passenger side." The Defendant told Det. Parks that he did not know how the blood got in the Jeep and that the victim was not bleeding when he was with her. One of the investigators in the room with Det. Parks told the Defendant that they had only found a "small" amount of blood, like if a "finger was bleeding." The Defendant said that he "didn't know how much blood" was found just that he was told there was "some blood over there." The Defendant told Det. Parks that the victim would not let anyone drive her Jeep. However, the Defendant admitted that he had driven the Jeep when the victim first purchased it. The Defendant claimed that after he learned of the victim's disappearance, he drove around the neighborhood of his aunt's house looking for the victim because it was near where the victim's Jeep was found, but he never found any trace of her.

         After interviewing the Defendant, the police continued their investigation into the victim's disappearance. On November 13, 2012, the victim's home was searched. Some of the items the victim had purchased at Walmart on November 9th were found in her home. The toilet appeared to be broken and was running when the investigators searched the home. In the victim's closet, the investigators found a beige bag with several pill bottles inside. More pill bottles were found on the bottom of the victim's nightstand. A yellow bag containing still more pill bottles was found beneath the victim's bed. Among the pill bottles was a bottle of methadone prescribed to Mr. Wilkes. None of the pill bottles found in the home were linked to the Defendant.

         On November 16, 2012, the investigators executed search warrants for the apartment the Defendant shared with his girlfriend and the Defendant's aunt's house. The Defendant and his girlfriend were present for the search of their apartment. Det. Parks testified that the Defendant "was fine" during the search. Det. Parks described the apartment as being "very clean" at the time of the search. During the search, a pair of shoes that smelled heavily of bleach was seized from the apartment's laundry room along with a blue bucket. There were no laces and no inserts in the shoes when they were seized. Several other items were seized from the apartment and the Defendant's aunt's house, but subsequent forensic testing by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) revealed no physical connection between the seized items and the victim's disappearance. Det. Parks testified that he "noticed what appeared to be some abrasions on the back of [the Defendant's] hands" that day.

         After concluding the searches, Det. Parks and Sergeant Jayevan Montgomery, a homicide investigator, conducted a second interview of the Defendant. This interview was recorded and lasted several hours. The recording of this interview was played for the jury. The interview began with the Defendant's estimating that the victim dropped him off at the Family Dollar after they got gas at the Murphy gas station, around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. The Defendant could not remember in which direction the victim drove away. The Defendant claimed that he then walked to his car and drove to his aunt's house.

         The Defendant denied that he spent the night at his aunt's house and claimed to have stayed there three hours. The Defendant told Det. Parks that he left his aunt's house to go back to his apartment around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. The Defendant said that, once he got to the apartment, he took a shower, went to bed, and did not wake up until the morning. The Defendant initially denied going back out that night or calling anyone. The Defendant told the investigators that he may have called the victim to see if she had spoken to Mr. Wilkes while he was driving from his aunt's house to his apartment but that she did not answer. The Defendant further said that he did not believe that he had called the victim after that.

         The Defendant told the investigators that the victim had said that two different people were going to come by her home to buy pills. The Defendant explained that Mr. Wilkes and the victim sold pain pills. According to the Defendant, Mr. Wilkes did most of the selling, but the victim was trying to keep the business going while Mr. Wilkes was incarcerated. Despite this, the Defendant assured the investigators that the victim did not abuse pills or other types of drugs. The Defendant said that he was good friends with Mr. Wilkes but claimed that he did not know the victim that well.

         The Defendant said that he was unsure of where he went the day after he saw the victim. The Defendant believed that he had picked up his cousin and then gone to his cousin's house to watch football and drink. The Defendant did not know what time it was when he got home that day but told the investigators that Pat had called to tell him about the victim's disappearance while he was on his way home. The Defendant also told the investigators that someone named Patrick had called him and "told [him] they found the [victim's] body" and then called him later to tell him "that they found her with a slight heartbeat." The Defendant said that Patrick's girlfriend worked with the victim.

         The investigators asked the Defendant about his conversation with Ms. Coleman. The Defendant said that he and Ms. Coleman had been romantically involved in the past and that she called him wanting to "hang[] out and everything." The Defendant explained that Ms. Coleman wanted to get some cocaine and that he had told her that they could go to his aunt's house and "chill out." It was during this conversation that the Defendant told Ms. Coleman that the victim was missing. The investigators asked the Defendant if he told Ms. Coleman about blood having been found inside the Jeep. The Defendant replied as follows: "No, I told her that they found some, you know, like you told me, a little blood on the passenger side of the car. They found it on Wilcox without keys in it." The Defendant denied that he told Ms. Coleman that he got out of the victim's Jeep around 10:00 p.m. and that "blood was on somebody's hands."

         The investigators confronted the Defendant about the fact that the surveillance video from the gas station showed that he and the victim were there at 9:00 p.m. The Defendant responded that he did not think he was out that late. However, the Defendant was sure that he called the victim around 10:00 p.m. to see if she had talked to Mr. Wilkes. Det. Parks told the Defendant that the victim's neighbors heard someone leave the victim's home around 10:00 p.m. The Defendant denied going to the victim's home that night. The investigators also confronted the Defendant about the fact that his girlfriend claimed that the Defendant would take her car out at night after she had taken her nightly sleeping pill. The Defendant admitted to sometimes doing that and stated that he did not know if his girlfriend was asleep when he got home on November 9th.

         The investigators also confronted the Defendant with the fact that he called the victim's cell phone at 2:30 a.m. The Defendant said that he did not remember calling her and that he did not talk to her. The Defendant claimed that he "must have hit it by accident." The Defendant told the investigators that he was home at 2:30 a.m. The investigators then confronted the Defendant with the fact that during this call, his cell phone connected to a cell tower that did not cover the area of his apartment. The Defendant claimed that he must have been on his way home from his aunt's house at 2:30 a.m.

         At that point, the investigators noted that the cell tower used during the 2:30 a.m. call covered the area around the Wilcox Boulevard Tunnel. The Defendant said that he did not know why he would be in that area "unless [he] was out there trying to get [him] a skeeze or something." The Defendant then admitted that he "went back out" that morning, telling the investigators that he "probably snuck out of the house to try to make a booty call with somebody." The Defendant claimed that he went to the eastside of the city and "just rode around for a little while." The Defendant told the investigators that "they sell kind of cheap" in that part of Chattanooga and he could pay a prostitute seven dollars for sex. However, the Defendant claimed that he did not meet anyone that morning. The Defendant insisted that he called the victim by mistake. The Defendant also claimed that he did not see the victim's Jeep while he was driving around that morning.

         The Defendant admitted to the investigators that he had propositioned the victim "awhile back." The Defendant explained that about six or seven months before the victim's disappearance, he was drunk and offered to pay the victim twenty-five dollars for sex. The Defendant said that the victim told him no and that Mr. Wilkes talked to him after the fact and "squashed all of it." The Defendant said that it was not a big deal and that the victim was still comfortable with him afterwards. The Defendant denied ever having sex with the victim and claimed that he did not think of the victim "like that." The Defendant reiterated that he only propositioned her because he was drunk.

         One of the investigators claimed that the cell phone records showed that the Defendant's phone was with the victim's phone at 2:30 a.m. The Defendant asked how far away the phones were and if the victim's phone was moving with his phone. The Defendant then denied that he was with the victim that morning and that he called her phone in an effort to find it. The Defendant also denied that he was with the victim after 11:00 p.m., that he went back to her home, or that he called her to arrange a meeting somewhere else. The Defendant further denied that he knew where the victim was or that he had killed her. The Defendant assured the investigators that if the victim were dead, then no evidence from her body would point to him.

         The Defendant denied that his girlfriend did not know the victim was missing until she saw it on television and insisted that he told her. When asked about the pair of shoes that had been bleached, the Defendant said that he had cleaned them in bleach in order to get some grease off them. The Defendant said that his girlfriend might have complained about the bleach he used to clean the shoes. When asked about the abrasions on the back of his hands, the Defendant said that they probably had come from "pulling brush and stuff" for a class on landscaping that he was taking. The interview concluded with the investigators asking the Defendant where they should look for the victim, and the Defendant suggested that they look around where her Jeep was found.

         Shortly after interviewing the Defendant, the investigators learned that the Defendant had access to a third house. The Defendant did not tell the investigators about this house, and they only learned about it after secretly following the Defendant and observing him spend the night at the house. On November 20, 2012, the investigators executed a search warrant at this house. Sgt. Montgomery recalled that the Defendant's "demeanor was quite different from" November 16th. Sgt. Montgomery thought the Defendant "was obviously upset, agitated, [and] seemed bothered by [their] presence" at the third house. Det. Parks recalled that the Defendant arrived at the house toward the end of the search and that he was "agitated." Items were seized from this house, but subsequent forensic testing by the TBI revealed no physical connection between the items and the victim's disappearance. All of the locations were searched for evidence of blood, but none was found.

         III. Attempts to Corroborate the Defendant's Statements

         In addition to the searches, the investigators attempted to corroborate the Defendant's statements. David Thomas Lindie testified at trial that he lived above the Defendant's apartment. On November 9, 2012, Mr. Lindie came across the Defendant walking along the road and offered to give him a ride. The Defendant told Mr. Lindie that he was walking to the Family Dollar to meet some friends and to work on a car. Mr. Lindie drove the Defendant to the Family Dollar and waited with him for about five minutes until a green Jeep pulled into the parking lot. When the Defendant saw the Jeep, he said "there they are" and got out of Mr. Lindie's truck.

         The Defendant's girlfriend, Mary Morris, testified at trial that she and the Defendant had been in an "on and off" relationship for "a couple of years" and that the Defendant lived with her on November 9, 2012. Ms. Morris had the Defendant move out of her apartment after the police searched it on November 16, 2012. Ms. Morris recalled the Defendant's leaving before dark on November 9th and saying that he was going to fix the victim's car. Ms. Morris recalled that the Defendant called her that night, but she could not recall what the Defendant said. Ms. Morris believed that the Defendant got home around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. that night. Ms. Morris did not notice anything unusual about the Defendant when he got home. Ms. Morris recalled that the Defendant took a bath and went to bed. Ms. Morris thought that the Defendant was in bed when she woke up the next morning and that he was wearing the same pajamas in which he went to bed.

         Ms. Morris testified that she took sleeping pills and used a breathing machine at night. Ms. Morris admitted that the Defendant could have gotten out of bed and left the apartment without her noticing. Ms. Morris recalled that on November 10, 2012, the Defendant soaked a pair of gray shoes in a bucket of Clorox in the bathtub. Ms. Morris testified that she did not use Clorox because she had a lung condition. Ms. Morris also testified that she had seen the Defendant soak his shoes in Clorox before November 10th and that she had previously described the Defendant as being "too clean" and "always [keeping] his clothes clean." Ms. Morris testified that she learned about the victim's disappearance from a television news story.

         Ms. Morris gave a statement to investigators on November 16, 2012. In that statement, she said that the Defendant had left on November 9, 2012, around 6:00 p.m. and returned around 11:00 p.m. Ms. Morris stated that the Defendant was wearing "them gray tennis shoes that he soaked in Clorox" when he left. Ms. Morris also stated that the Defendant called her that night and said that he was at Walmart with the victim and the victim's mother. Ms. Morris said that she knew the Defendant routinely left the apartment after she went to sleep because she would find her car moved and low on gas the next morning. Ms. Morris also told the investigators that the Defendant had brought the bleach from his aunt's house and that she had never seen him bleach his shoes before November 10th. Ms. Morris stated that when she learned about the victim's disappearance, the Defendant said, "Don't cry, [the victim's] going to be all right." Ms. Morris said that she asked the Defendant about his being with the victim the night before she disappeared and he said that he "just took her to Walmart." The Defendant then "cut it off . . . [and] got angry a little bit."

         Ms. Coleman testified at trial that she had known the victim for three or four years, that the victim was her "best friend, " that her husband and Mr. Wilkes were friends, and that she had lived with the victim and Mr. Wilkes for a few months. Ms. Coleman knew the Defendant through the victim and Mr. Wilkes. Ms. Coleman recalled that the Defendant would go to the victim's home to work on cars and called Mr. Wilkes his cousin. According to Ms. Coleman, Mr. Wilkes "went to jail all the time, " and the Defendant would "help [the victim] out" when Mr. Wilkes was incarcerated. Ms. Coleman denied ever having sex with the Defendant, but she claimed that the Defendant had previously offered to pay her money in exchange for sex.

         Ms. Coleman testified that on either November 11 or November 12, 2012, she received a phone call from the Defendant. Ms. Coleman admitted that she was intoxicated during her conversation with the Defendant. Ms. Coleman testified that the Defendant was "fine" at the start of their conversation. The Defendant asked her to come over to his aunt's house because he wanted "to show [her] something." The Defendant told Ms. Coleman that his aunt was in the hospital. Ms. Coleman testified that she declined the Defendant's offer because she thought it would be "morbid" to be in his aunt's house while she was hospitalized. Ms. Coleman denied that there was any discussion about having sex or using cocaine during her conversation with the Defendant.

         After Ms. Coleman rejected the Defendant's offer, the Defendant told her that the victim was missing. Ms. Coleman was unaware of the victim's disappearance, and she "flipped out" upon hearing the news. Ms. Coleman recalled that the Defendant said that he was the last person to see the victim and that he had gone to Walmart with the victim to get a part to fix her toilet. According to Ms. Coleman, the Defendant also said that the victim had dropped him off at the Family Dollar and then left "to go make a pill sale." Ms. Coleman testified that she repeatedly asked the Defendant who the victim was going to see, but the Defendant did not respond. Instead, the Defendant said that the victim's Jeep had been found with blood inside it.

         Ms. Coleman denied that the victim sold pills. She admitted that Mr. Wilkes sold pills and that the victim would drive him to the sales because Mr. Wilkes did not have a valid driver's license. Ms. Coleman also admitted that she was heavily medicated when she spoke to the investigators and that she repeatedly refused to give them a formal statement because of her intoxication.

         Tiara Vickerson testified that she worked with the victim and lived next door to her for a time. Ms. Vickerson and the victim would socialize outside of work. Ms. Vickerson knew Mr. Wilkes and had met the Defendant once. Ms. Vickerson testified that she lived with her boyfriend, Patrick Dixon. Ms. Vickerson testified that she never talked to the Defendant about the victim's disappearance and that she never called him.

         Mr. Dixon testified that he knew Mr. Wilkes from having worked "on a few of [his] cars" and that he met the victim after she and Mr. Wilkes married. Mr. Dixon recalled that Ms. Vickerson was upset about the victim's disappearance, so he called the Defendant on November 10, 2012, to ask if he had seen or heard from the victim. The Defendant told Mr. Dixon that he had gone to Walmart with the victim the previous night and that he had brought her back to her home, taken her groceries inside for her, and left to go back home. Mr. Dixon testified that he called the Defendant several more times on November 11, 2012, to talk about the victim's disappearance. Mr. Dixon denied telling the Defendant that the victim's body had been found or that she had been found with a "slight pulse." Mr. Dixon testified that on November 11, 2012, he had no idea where the victim was. Mr. Dixon admitted that, at the time of trial, he was facing charges for selling cocaine.

         Lawon Fortson testified that he knew Mr. Wilkes because Mr. Wilkes had worked on his car. Mr. Fortson knew the Defendant through Mr. Wilkes, but he did not know the victim. On November 9, 2012, Mr. Fortson received two phone calls from Mr. Wilkes's cell phone at 10:00 and 10:17 p.m. Mr. Fortson did not answer the calls and testified that he did not speak to the victim that night. Mr. Fortson testified that he did not know that Mr. Wilkes was incarcerated at that time. Mr. Fortson also claimed that he did not know that Mr. Wilkes sold pills and denied ever having bought or sold any narcotics with the victim. Mr. Fortson testified that the Defendant called him several times on November 10, 2012, and that he tried to call Mr. Wilkes back on the morning of November 11th. Mr. Fortson admitted that when investigators asked to search his car regarding this case, he told them that they would find marijuana inside the car.

         Christopher Rozema testified at trial that he went to school with the Defendant and that he purchased Xanax from Mr. Wilkes. Mr. Rozema claimed that he had only met the victim one time and "barely" knew her. According to Mr. Rozema, the victim called him from Mr. Wilkes's cell phone on November 9, 2012, at 9:40 and 10:28 p.m. wanting to sell him some Xanax. Mr. Rozema testified that he turned down the victim's offer because he was trying to quit abusing Xanax. Mr. Rozema further testified that he never spoke to the victim again after those conversations. Mr. Rozema denied meeting the victim that night and denied having anything to do with her her disappearance and murder. Mr. Rozema admitted that he had two prior theft convictions and that, at the time of trial, he was incarcerated for driving under the influence and domestic assault.

         IV. Discovery of the Victim's Body

         On the morning of November 25, 2012, Jeremy Pruitt and two of his friends were duck hunting on South Chickamauga Creek. Around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m., Mr. Pruitt saw what he thought were some "Halloween decorations" on the creek bank. Mr. Pruitt and his friends brought their boat over to the bank and got out. They quickly realized that what they had seen was a body and called 911. CPD Officer Eric Hindman was the first officer to respond. He arrived at the 3700 block of Youngstown Road, which was about two or three feet up an embankment from where the victim's body was found. Officer Hindman found a bra on the road just inside the guardrail on the same side of the road as the creek.

         The body was on its back. It had been decapitated and had no hands. There were shoes and jeans on the body, but the upper torso was naked and "significantly decomposed." There was a path leading from the body to the road and the foliage was "leaning towards the bank of the creek, " which suggested to Sgt. Montgomery that the body had been moved from the roadside to the bank of the creek. A white t-shirt and a yellow "key fob" were found in the brush near the body. The t-shirt was inside out and soiled. A lighter and a white methadone pill were found in the pockets of the jeans. The clothing recovered at the scene was similar to what the victim had been seen wearing on the surveillance videos taken at Walmart and the Murphy gas station on November 9, 2012. Mr. Wilkes identified the body as the victim based on photographs of the victim's tattoos. Subsequent DNA testing confirmed that the body was the victim. The victim's head and hands were never found.

         Based upon the discovery of the victim's body, the investigators again searched Ms. Morris's apartment, the Defendant's aunt's house, and the third house in which he had been staying. More items were seized. However, subsequent forensic testing by the TBI revealed no physical connection between the items and the victim's murder. The police also searched the Defendant's car. They discovered that the car had recently been cleaned and were unable to recover any fingerprints from the car. There was no evidence of blood in the Defendant's car and items seized from the car were revealed to have no physical connection to the victim's murder based upon subsequent forensic testing by the TBI. The victim's cell phone, Mr. Wilkes's cell phone, the victim's purse, and the keys to the victim's Jeep were never recovered. Sgt. Montgomery admitted at trial that the investigators did not know the specific location where the victim was murdered. Ms. Morris testified at trial that the Defendant would sometimes go fishing and that he would get bait from a tackle shop not far from where the victim's body was found.

         V. Forensic Evidence

         Doctor James Kenneth Metcalfe, chief medical examiner for Hamilton County and an expert in forensic pathology, performed an autopsy of the victim's body. Dr. Metcalfe testified that the victim's body was in the process of decomposing when his office received it and that the process was "fairly advanced in the exposed areas." Dr. Metcalfe explained that the autopsy "was hampered by the fact that [the victim's body] had decomposed significantly." Dr. Metcalfe was able to determine that the victim had methadone at a level within the "therapeutic" range in her blood at the time of her death. The victim also had a blood alcohol level of .057 percent. Dr. Metcalfe found contusions to the victim's "mid abdomen and neck, " but he was unable to determine whether these were inflicted pre- or post-death. Dr. Metcalfe was also unsure if the victim had been sexually assaulted because there was "no unequivocal injury" to her pelvic area. Anal and vaginal swabs taken from the victim during the autopsy were negative for the presence of semen. Dr. Metcalfe concluded that the manner of the victim's death was homicide, but he was unable to determine the cause of her death.

         Doctor Murray K. Marks, an expert in forensic anthropology and a forensic anthropologist at the Knox County Regional Forensic Center and the University of Tennessee Medical Center, observed the victim's autopsy and took samples from several of her bones. Specifically, Dr. Marks collected samples of two vertebrae from the victim's neck and "the ends of four bones from the forearm[s] of the body." Dr. Marks examined the victim's left ulna and radius. The victim's left radius had saw marks and jagged edges from the bone being broken, what Dr. Marks referred to as "a breakaway spur." Dr. Marks testified that the wounds were on the wrist or hand end of the bone. The victim's left ulna had "deeper" saw marks and was "severed all the way through." Dr. Marks opined that the cuts were made by a four-millimeter-thick blade. Dr. Marks also opined that the blade was a manual saw given all of the "false start" wounds he found on the bones. Dr. Marks found the same pattern on the bones taken from the victim's right arm, with the right radius' having been broken and the right ulna's having been "severed all the way through."

         With respect to the vertebrae taken from the victim's neck, Dr. Marks testified that they were sawed until the victim's head broke off when "enough pressure [was] applied." Dr. Marks testified that the saw marks were on the backside of the vertebrae and opined that the victim was face down when her head was removed. Dr. Marks further testified that the vertebrae would have been difficult to saw through. Dr. Marks explained that the perpetrator would have had to saw through "spinal cord, a lot of blood vessels on either side of the neck, and then a lot of musculature up at the base of the skull." Dr. Marks testified that there was no way that he could determine whether the victim was alive or dead when her head and hands were removed. Sgt. Montgomery testified that no saw with a four millimeter blade was recovered during the investigation of the victim's murder.

         The victim's Jeep was impounded and searched by CPD crime scene investigators. In the back seat, the investigators found blood smears on the lower right of the center console and the bottom interior of the rear passenger door. The investigators also found blood stains on the left side of the center console and the floor board of the rear passenger seat. On the front passenger side, the investigators found a Coke can, a phone book, a receipt from the Murphy gas station, and the back of an earring on the floor board. In the passenger seat, they found a wad of blonde hair and an earring. Blood was found on the floor board and the dash of the front passenger seat. There was blood spatter and smears on the glove compartment and dash. There was also blood spatter on the front passenger door and the windshield.

         The investigators took blood swabs from several areas of the Jeep and also collected several cigarette butts from the center console. A partial shoe print was taken from the interior of the driver's side window, but it did not match any of the Defendant's shoes that were seized by the police. There was no vegetation or debris found inside the Jeep. One of the investigators who searched the Jeep, Gregory Mardis, testified at trial that the blood smears found in the back passenger seat area suggested that "[s]omething with blood on it went by that seat and rubbed on it as it went by." He also testified that almost all of the blood was found on the passenger side of the vehicle and that is likely where whatever act of violence occurred.

         Doctor Laura Boos of the TBI testified at trial as an expert in serology and DNA analysis. Dr. Boos tested several items involved in this case. Dr. Boos's analysis of one of the cigarette butts found in the victim's Jeep revealed the presence of both the Defendant and the victim's DNA, with the Defendant being the major contributor. The same was also true of a Newport cigarette butt found in the Jeep. However, that cigarette butt also tested positive for the presence of human blood. The Defendant stated during his interview with Det. Parks and Sgt. Montgomery that he smoked Newport cigarettes, and a receipt for Newport cigarettes was found at the Defendant's aunt's house. A swab taken from the Jeep's steering wheel also tested positive for human blood. Based upon DNA analysis, Dr. Boos concluded that the blood found inside the Jeep belonged to the victim. Dr. Boos testified that the shoes seized from the Defendant's apartment were negative for human blood. However, Dr. Boos testified that putting the shoes in bleach would wash off the blood and destroy any DNA on the shoes.

         Dr. Boos also tested the bra found on Youngstown Road near the victim's body. Dr. Boos's analysis revealed the presence of human blood and the victim and the Defendant's DNA. The victim was the major contributor and the Defendant was the minor contributor. Dr. Boos testified that she could not determine if the Defendant's DNA was on the bra before or after the blood was deposited on it. Dr. Boos was asked if the Defendant's DNA could have been deposited on the bra simply by touching it. Dr. Boos responded that "a simple touch" "would not leave enough DNA in a mixture" to be detectible. Instead, the Defendant would have needed to touch the bra with "enough force and friction to leave enough skin cells among [the victim's] DNA." Dr. Boos was unable to find semen on any of the victim's clothes. Dr. Boos did find blood on the victim's shirt and one of her shoes. However, Dr. Boos was unable to create a DNA profile from these samples. Dr. Boos was able to conclude that blood found on the victim's jeans belonged to the victim.

         Mark Hamilton, a civilian CPD employee, testified at trial as an expert in "cellular records analysis." Mr. Hamilton testified that his analysis was based on billing records provided by the cell phone providers for the Defendant, the victim, and Mr. Wilkes. Mr. Hamilton noted that the Defendant and the victim called each other several times throughout the day on November 9, 2012. The victim's last answered call was a phone call from the Defendant at 8:07 p.m. The last calls from Mr. Wilkes's phone were made at 10:00 and 10:17 p.m. on November 9, 2012. After those calls, no calls were made or connected to Mr. Wilkes's cell phone. The Defendant called the victim's phone at 2:32 a.m. on November 10, 2012. The call lasted six seconds. After that call, the Defendant did not call the victim's phone again.

         Mr. Hamilton then testified about establishing the location of cell phones based upon the cell phone tower records. Mr. Hamilton explained that this method of establishing the location of a cell phone was not like "GPS tracking" and was "very broad . . . [because it did not provide] detailed spots out there . . . on a street." Rather, this type of evidence provided "a broad swipe." Mr. Hamilton admitted that this was not a "precise" way to establish the location of a cell phone. Mr. Hamilton further admitted that he could not say that a phone call was made from a particular place, just that it was consistent with a certain area.

         Mr. Hamilton testified that the victim's cell phone connected to Cricket tower 612, which covered a geographic area that included the victim's home, for the phone calls made between approximately 5:00 and 7:30 p.m. on November 9, 2012. During this same timeframe, the Defendant's cell phone connected to T-Mobile tower 28903, which covered a geographic area that included the Defendant's apartment with Ms. Morris. From approximately 7:50 p.m. until the victim's last answered call at 8:07 p.m., both the victim and the Defendant's cell phones connected to the corresponding Cricket and T-Mobile towers that covered the area around the Walmart and Murphy gas station.

         At 10:00 p.m., Mr. Wilkes's cell phone connected to Cricket tower 612, which covered a geographic area that included the victim's home, the Defendant and Ms. Morris's apartment, and the Family Dollar store. At 10:17 p.m., Mr. Wilkes's cell phone connected to Cricket tower 658, which covered a geographic area that included the Defendant's aunt's house. At 2:32 a.m. on November 10, 2012, the Defendant's cell phone connected to T-Mobile tower 8693, which covered a geographic area that included the Wilcox Boulevard Tunnel and the location where the victim's Jeep was found. The victim's cell phone from this same call connected to Cricket tower 611, which covered the same geographic area as T-Mobile tower 8693. From that point on, all of the phone calls to Mr. Wilkes and the victim's cell phones connected to Cricket tower 611.

         At 10:48 a.m. on November 10th, the Defendant's cell phone connected to T-Mobile tower 8681, which covered a geographic area that included the third house police searched in connection with their investigation of the Defendant. The Defendant's cell phone then connected to T-Mobile tower 8693, which covered the Wilcox Boulevard Tunnel area, at 10:57 a.m. Mr. Hamilton testified that he "field tested" T-Mobile tower 8693 and that he could not connect to it from Ms. Morris's apartment. Mr. Hamilton also admitted ...


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