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State v. Crowell

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 23, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs January 4, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Chester County No. 15-CR-61 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

         The Defendant, Jamie Crowell[1], was convicted by a Chester County Circuit Court jury of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; facilitation of aggravated assault, a Class D felony; possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, a Class B felony; possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a Class B felony; possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, oxymorphone, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court merged the methamphetamine convictions into one conviction and sentenced the Defendant to a total effective term of seventeen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the State's questioning about the prior methamphetamine use of defense witnesses denied him a fair trial; and (3) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Terry Lee Dicus, Jr., Savannah, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jamie Crowell.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; Jody S. Pickens, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.


          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE.


         The Defendant and two co-defendants, Daryl Gatley and Dustin McCollum, were indicted for especially aggravated kidnapping; aggravated assault; possession of a prohibited weapon[2]; possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver; possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, oxymorphone; and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         State's Proof

         At trial, the victim, Gail Pearson, testified that she had known the Defendant "[a]ll his life." In early July 2015, Ms. Pearson loaned her car to her son, co-defendant Dustin McCollum, and the Defendant, who was with Mr. McCollum at the time. The two were gone with her car for "[a]t least four, maybe more" days, even though she had only loaned it to them to get oil for the Defendant's truck. Ms. Pearson admitted that she initially wrote a statement suggesting that they had the car for two days but maintained they had it for at least four days.

         Ms. Pearson recalled that on July 9, 2015, while Mr. McCollum and the Defendant were still gone with her car, Mr. McCollum called her and asked if she would fix him and the Defendant something to eat. The two men arrived to her house around 6:30 that night and again asked if she would fix them something to eat. The Defendant had "a long gun . . . [that] [h]ad a stand" with him. While Ms. Pearson was preparing the food, Mr. McCollum and the Defendant napped on the couch. At that time, the Defendant's gun was seven or eight feet away from him, but Mr. McCollum had a pistol tucked in the waistband of his pants. When she was finished preparing the food, Ms. Pearson woke the men up and they ate. The Defendant had asked Ms. Pearson to take him home, but he ended up eating the food she had prepared instead of going home.

         Mr. McCollum asked to use Ms. Pearson's phone and "started going through" it. He asked her about a "special agent so-and-so" in her contact list, and she tried to explain that it referred to her son-in-law who was a "Sergeant First Class" in the Army. Mr. McCollum then accused Ms. Pearson, his ex-wife Maley, and a person named Derrick Maness of conspiring against him to get him into trouble, which Ms. Pearson denied.

         Ms. Pearson acknowledged that in her statement to police, she told the officers that, during his rant, Mr. McCollum accused the Defendant of "do[ing] him wrong." She said that she was traumatized at the time and not sure why she said that because Mr. McCollum and the Defendant "came in as friendly as they always had been." However, she recalled that Mr. McCollum told her that he had to drive an "old rattletrap" back from Alabama and the Defendant "drove the good vehicle, " which Mr. McCollum said "was just wrong."

         Mr. McCollum put a pistol to Ms. Pearson's head, saying he would help her remember the conspiracy against him and "clicked" the trigger. Mr. McCollum ordered Ms. Pearson onto the couch in the living room, but she was able to grab her "Safe Link" phone without him noticing. At this point, the Defendant was sitting on the couch in the living room and his gun was by the couch.

         Mr. McCollum told Ms. Pearson she "better start remembering" the conspiracy against him or he would "shoot [her] kneecaps off." The Defendant laughed when Ms. Pearson began to beg Mr. McCollum not to shoot her. Mr. McCollum continued to argue with Ms. Pearson, eventually telling her that he was going to have to kill her. However, Mr. McCollum said that he would do it in "a little bit" and walked into the kitchen to call co-defendant Daryl Gatley. He told the Defendant not to let Ms. Pearson "do anything stupid." The Defendant did not say anything but remained sitting on the couch with his gun.

         Ms. Pearson recalled that Mr. Gatley arrived a short while later and gave Mr. McCollum a knife. Mr. McCollum told Ms. Pearson that he should cut out her tongue and then put the knife to her ear, saying he was "gonna cut through [her] jawbone and [her] teeth and scar [her] face." After she begged him not to do that, he put the knife away.

         Ms. Pearson tried to call 911 from her "Safe Link" phone but could not get a signal out. At some point, she was able to call her sister, Elizabeth Ann Pugh, while she was "praying . . . [and] all curled up" under a comforter. She left Ms. Pugh a voicemail asking her to call the police and explaining that the defendants were "fixing to kill [her]." She did not know if the Defendant did not hear her or was ignoring her. She called Ms. Pugh again and left the line open.

         Ms. Pearson recalled that the defendants had a conversation about how to kill her and what to do with her body. The Defendant urged Mr. McCollum to "[h]urry up and . . . get this done" because they had "places to go and things to do." Mr. Gatley and the Defendant asked Mr. McCollum what he was going to do, inquiring "You gonna cut her up? You gonna cut her head off? We gonna burn her in the house or what?" The men noted that there were items in the house they could use to set it on fire. All three of the men were armed. Ms. Pearson said that the Defendant actually pointed his gun at her at some point during the ordeal, although in her statement to the police and at the preliminary hearing she had not mentioned the Defendant doing so.

         At some point, officers from the sheriff's department arrived and ordered that the defendants come out with their hands raised. The Defendant and Mr. Gatley grabbed their guns and went to the back room, but Mr. McCollum stayed with Ms. Pearson in the living room. Ms. Pearson convinced Mr. McCollum to let her go outside and tell the officers that everything was okay. Once Ms. Pearson was outside, the officers called the defendants out one-by-one.

         The officers searched Ms. Pearson's vehicle at the scene and found various drugs. Ms. Pearson said that the items did not belong to her and reiterated that Mr. McCollum and the Defendant had been in possession of her car the four days leading up to the offense. She denied that she had been back in the car before the officers searched it.

         Ms. Pearson said that the duffle bag found in her car that contained women's and men's clothing, makeup, a tin can, and other items did not belong to her. She said that it also did not belong to Mr. McCollum because she knew what his clothes looked like. Mr. McCollum told her that the drugs found in the car did not belong to him.

         Elizabeth Ann Pugh, Ms. Pearson's sister and Mr. McCollum's aunt, testified that she had known the Defendant "[s]ince he was baby, " as he and Mr. McCollum had always been friends. Around 11:30 p.m. on July 9, 2015, she was asleep in bed when she received a series of phone calls from her sister. Ms. Pugh let the first call go to voicemail but answered the second call. Ms. Pearson did not say anything during the call; however, she left the line open and Ms. Pugh could hear the background conversation. Ms. Pugh heard "a lot of commotion between two guys" discussing what they were going to do to Ms. Pearson. She recognized the voices as Mr. McCollum's and Mr. Gatley's, and then she heard a third voice at the end of the call that she recognized as the Defendant's. She recalled that Mr. McCollum and Mr. Gatley discussed setting the house on fire and then she specifically recalled hearing the Defendant say, "Yes, we've got to get this done right now. We've got to get this over with." Ms. Pugh called 911.

         Deputies Celinda Davidson, Nathan Daniel, and Kyle Connor with the Chester County Sheriff's Department arrived to the scene between midnight and 1:00 a.m. on July 10, 2015, in response to a call that Ms. Pearson was being held against her will. The officers demanded that the victim be sent outside. Ms. Pearson walked out with her hands raised, and the officers ...

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