Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs July 19, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 18192 F. Lee
defendant, Comer Thomas Vance, appeals his Bedford County
Circuit Court jury conviction of felony theft, claiming that
the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and
that the prosecutor's closing argument was improper.
Discerning no error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed
Ronald Tucker, Jr. (on appeal and at trial) and Brian Belden
(at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, for the
appellant, Comer Thomas Vance.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M.
Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter,
District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles and Richard
A. Cawley, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John Everett Williams and Timothy L. Easter, JJ.,
CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE.
January 2016, the Bedford County Grand Jury charged the
defendant with one count of theft of property valued at $1,
000 or more but less than $10, 000. The trial court conducted
a jury trial in November 2016.
State's proof at trial showed that in June 2015, the
victim, Scotty Colwell, was a full-time student at Middle
Tennessee State University and worked part-time for a
construction company while living in Smithville. The victim
owned a 2004 black Mazda 3 hatchback ("the Mazda")
that he estimated to be worth between $4, 500 and $5, 000 in
approximately 6:00 a.m. on June 22, 2015, the victim's
foreman picked the victim up from his residence to drive him
to work. Before leaving, the victim retrieved his tool belt
from the Mazda, which was parked in his driveway, and he
inadvertently left his car keys on the seat of the unlocked
Mazda. About two hours later, the victim's girlfriend
called him at work to inquire about the location of the Mazda
because it was no longer parked in the victim's driveway.
victim's supervisor drove him to the police station so
that he could file a report of the theft. The victim provided
Detective Matthew Holmes with a full description of the
Mazda, including the vehicle identification number
("VIN"). The victim also informed Detective Holmes
that the Mazda contained a global positioning system
("GPS") as well as the victim's daughter's
later, a law enforcement officer contacted the victim to
inform him that the Mazda had been located. The baseball
equipment was recovered but the GPS was never recovered. The
driver's side door had a large scratch, and the vehicle
"was completely full of cigarette butts." The
victim testified that he had never met or heard of the
defendant and that he never gave him permission to take the
23, 2015, Shelbyville Police Department Patrolman Bobby
Peacock received a call about a suspicious vehicle parked
behind a local church. When Patrolman Peacock arrived at the
scene, he discovered a black Mazda, but when he checked the
Mazda's license plate, he learned that the plate was
registered to a Nissan Quest minivan that was owned by the
family of Erica Gasbar, who resided across the street from
the church. Upon running a search for the Mazda's VIN,
Patrolman Peacock learned that the vehicle had recently been
reported as stolen.
Peacock spoke with Ms. Gasbar, who informed him that the
Nissan's license plate had recently been stolen and that
she had seen a white male at the house next door driving a
black vehicle. Ms. Gasbar identified the defendant as the man
she had seen driving the black vehicle, explaining that she
had seen him on approximately five prior occasions with
Brandy Boyce, who resided next door. Ms. Gasbar testified
that shortly after seeing the defendant driving the black
vehicle, she noticed that the license plate was missing from
the family's Nissan.
Boyce, the Gasbars' next-door neighbor, testified that
she and the defendant had been involved romantically but that
the two had ended their relationship in May 2015. While the
two were dating, Ms. Boyce would drive to Smithville to visit
the defendant because he did not have a car. In June 2015,
the defendant "showed up" at Ms. Boyce's
residence driving a black Mazda. When Ms. Boyce asked the
defendant whose car he was driving, the defendant responded
that he had borrowed it from a friend. The defendant then
gave Ms. Boyce a "little girl's bat bag" and
baseball bat; he told her that "a friend" had given
the items to him, and the defendant wanted Ms. Boyce's
daughter to have them. Later that evening, the defendant and
Ms. Boyce drove the Mazda to the grocery store, and when they
returned, the defendant parked the Mazda "[b]ehind the
church across the street."
following morning, June 23, Ms. Boyce was awakened by
detectives knocking on her door. Shelbyville Police
Department Detective Brian Crews asked Ms. Boyce if anyone
else was present in the residence, and she informed him that
the defendant was inside. Detective Crews asked to speak with
the defendant and asked Ms. Boyce to locate the keys to the
black Mazda. Ms. Boyce was unable to find the keys on the
kitchen counter where she had placed them the previous night.
After the detectives spoke with the defendant outside, the
detectives located the car keys behind an artificial tree in
the corner of Ms. Boyce's bedroom. Ms. Boyce also showed
Detective Crews the pink baseball bag and bat that the
defendant had given her; Detective Crews noticed that the
victim's last name was on both the bag and the bat.
Boyce testified that the defendant was a "[p]retty
heavy" smoker, estimating that the defendant smoked a
"[p]ack or more" per day. Ms. Boyce denied taking
the Mazda from Smithville or ever seeing the Mazda before the
defendant arrived at her residence.
this evidence, the State rested. Following a Momon
colloquy, the defendant elected not to testify and presented
on this evidence, the jury convicted the defendant as charged
of theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more but less than
$10, 000. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court
sentenced the defendant as a career offender to a term of 12
years' incarceration, to be served consecutively to the
defendant's sentence in Warren County under docket number
F14157 and "any other sentence." Following the
denial of his timely motion for new trial, the defendant
filed a timely notice of appeal.
appeal, the defendant contends that the evidence adduced at
trial was insufficient to support his conviction and that the
prosecutor's closing argument ...