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State v. Gilbert

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 29, 2018


          Session December 19, 2017

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sevier County No. 20805-II Robert E. Lee Davies, Judge

         The defendant, Ronald Wayne Gilbert, appeals his Sevier County Criminal Court jury convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, challenging both the trial court's denial of his motion to strike the victim's testimony and his motion to dismiss based upon the failure to preserve certain evidence. We affirm the convictions and sentence but remand for correction of a clerical error in the judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed; Remanded

          Alexandra Deas McMahan and Aaron M. Kimsey, Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Ronald Wayne Gilbert.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; James B. Dunn, District Attorney General; and Ronald C. Newcomb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         In September 2015, the Sevier County Grand Jury charged the defendant with two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of attempted first degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, [1] and one count of violating an order of protection. One year later, the trial court entered an agreed order severing the first three counts of the presentment from the remaining counts. After the defendant waived his right to a jury trial, the trial court conducted a bench trial in November 2016 on one count each of especially aggravated kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated assault.

         The State's proof at trial showed that the defendant and the victim, Brandi Gilbert, married in 1993 and had three children together. By early March 2015, the family had relocated from California to Cosby, Tennessee. While the family was still residing in California, the defendant struck the victim and one of their sons, and, in 2010, the defendant engaged in the first of several suicide attempts by trying to hang himself in front of the victim. The victim explained that the defendant suffered from progressive multiple sclerosis.

         During the first five weeks in which the family had resided in Cosby, the defendant remained secluded in the master bedroom of the family's residence. During the rare occasions that the defendant emerged from the bedroom, he was "really, really vicious and verbally abusive." On the morning of April 18, 2015, the defendant awoke uncharacteristically early and began packing to leave the house. When the victim asked him what he was doing, the defendant told her that he was planning to purchase an airplane ticket to fly to California and "kill [their] son's girlfriend." The victim was alarmed, and the couple argued. The argument escalated to a point that the defendant was "so out of control" with "yelling and cussing" that the victim contacted the local domestic violence hotline. The defendant grabbed the telephone and disconnected the call. The hotline called the victim back, and eventually, the victim called 9-1-1, reporting to the operator that the defendant was suicidal and was threatening to kill other people.

         After calling 9-1-1, the victim was standing in a doorway of the residence when the defendant "swept [her] feet out from under [her] and dropped down to sit on [her] chest." The defendant placed a knife blade against the victim's throat and said, "I'll cut your f[***]ing throat, and then he ripped [the victim's] shirt up and put the blade to [her] stomach and said, I'll f[***]ing gut you." The victim remained very still and quiet because she "saw [her] death on his face, " and she believed that the defendant intended to kill her. While the defendant was holding the knife against the victim's abdomen, he punctured her skin, drawing blood and leaving a small cut.

         The defendant then "leaned back" on his heels and started to stand, at which point the couple's 11-year-old son threw himself between the defendant and the victim. The victim screamed for her son to run, and as the victim stood up, she saw the defendant fleeing through the front door and escaping on a bicycle.

         Sevier County Sheriff's Department ("SCSD") Deputy Jayson Parton was dispatched to the defendant's residence on April 18, 2015, in response to a domestic situation; Deputy Parton recalled that the call came in "through the domestic hotline" and that the situation involved the suspect's holding the victim at knifepoint. When Deputy Parton arrived at the scene, the victim and her minor son were present, along with Pittman Center Police Department ("PCPD") Officer Todd Myers. Deputy Parton observed that the victim appeared to be upset and scared. While Deputy Parton was interviewing the victim, SCSD Corporal Clint Parton arrived at the scene, and both Deputy Parton and Corporal Parton searched for the defendant, who had reportedly fled into the woods near his residence. Deputy Parton eventually took the victim to the residence of nearby neighbors. Before leaving the victim, Deputy Parton photographed the injuries to the victim's right hand and neck. Deputy Parton was equipped with a body camera during his interactions with the victim, and through Deputy Parton's testimony, the State introduced into evidence the video recording taken at the scene. The recording showed, among other things, the victim's intermittent writing of a statement.

         Corporal Parton later located the defendant in a nearby barn. The defendant "had a dog collar or dog chain around his neck" and was "threatening to hang himself." The defendant was taken into custody without incident. Officers did not recover a knife from the defendant.

         With this evidence, the State rested. Following the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for judgments of acquittal, the defendant elected not to testify and chose to present no proof. Based on this evidence, the trial court convicted the defendant as charged of both especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, and the court found the defendant not guilty of attempted first degree murder. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the defendant as a mitigated offender to a term of 13 and one-half years' incarceration for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction, to be ...

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