Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session February 14, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. I-CR047982-C
Joseph A. Woodruff, Judge
Williamson County jury convicted the Defendant, Brian C.
Frelix, of four counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of
aggravated assault, one count of aggravated burglary, and one
count of theft of property valued at one thousand dollars or
more, but less than ten thousand dollars. After a sentencing
hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to an
effective sentence of thirty-eight years in the Tennessee
Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts
that the trial court improperly: (1) denied his motion to
suppress; (2) allowed Special Agent Andrew Vallee to testify
based upon unreliable phone records; (3) admitted letters and
testimony constituting hearsay; (4) admitted the victim's
stolen credit cards; (5) admitted information from a
co-defendant's Facebook page; and (6) imposed consecutive
sentences. After review, we affirm the trial court's
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
Jonathan W. Turner, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Brian C. Frelix.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent
C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper,
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr.,
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
case arises from an October 12, 2013, home invasion in
Williamson County, Tennessee. The Defendant and a
co-defendant entered a residence where the victims, a
husband, wife, and two minor sons were present. The Defendant
held the victims at gunpoint while the co-defendant searched
the house for valuables. A Williamson County grand jury
returned a fourteen-count indictment against the Defendant
and two co-defendants. The Defendant was indicted for three
counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of especially
aggravated kidnapping, four counts of aggravated robbery, one
count of aggravated burglary, and one count of theft of
property valued at more than one thousand dollars, but less
than ten thousand dollars. In April 2014, a superseding
indictment charged the Defendant additionally with four
counts of aggravated assault.
Motion to Suppress
Defendant filed a motion to suppress, asserting that his
Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth amendment rights had been
violated. At the suppression hearing, the following evidence
was presented: Alan Keller, a Brentwood Police Department
detective, testified that, in March 2014, he received a
letter from a Williamson County jail inmate, Michael
Reynolds, indicating that Mr. Reynolds had information from
the Defendant about the home invasion. Mr. Reynolds and the
Defendant had been cellmates for a period of time while
incarcerated. Detective Keller conducted a recorded interview
with Mr. Reynolds on March 20, 2014, at the Brentwood Police
Department, about his alleged conversations with the
Keller testified that he never asked Mr. Reynolds to assist
in the investigation or act as an agent in obtaining
information from the Defendant. During the interview, Mr.
Reynolds provided information that he would not have reason
to know "without speaking to somebody involved in the
crime." Detective Keller denied making promises to Mr.
Reynolds with respect to his pending cases, but he did tell
Mr. Reynolds that he "would ask the District Attorney .
. . if there was anything that [she] could do for him."
In the recorded interview, Mr. Reynolds asked Detective
Keller about the possibility of putting money in his
commissary account to enable him to communicate with law
enforcement about any information he learned. At the hearing,
Detective Keller denied putting money in the commissary
account but said that he gave Mr. Reynolds two stamps that
were in his desk drawer.
Keller denied providing Mr. Reynolds with coffee "and/or
any other incidentals" during the interview in exchange
for his testimony or cooperation. He explained that the
Brentwood Police Department policy was to provide food or
beverages, "basic needs, " during interviews.
Detective Keller again met with Mr. Reynolds on March 26,
2014, when Mr. Reynolds confirmed that the Defendant wanted
to speak with Detective Keller and provided a handwritten
letter from the Defendant stating the same. That afternoon,
the Defendant was transported to the police department and
spoke with detectives. Detective Keller explained that the
Defendant was transported to the police department around
lunchtime and, because the Defendant and Mr. Reynolds would
miss lunch at the jail, he provided the men with lunch. He
explained that this was "standard practice."
letter Mr. Reynolds delivered from the Defendant to Detective
Keller on March 26, 2014, was as follows:
My name is Brian Cameron Frelix: [date of birth] [Social
Security number]. I am authorizing Mike Reynolds to bring
this letter to you. I am writing to cooperate & discuss
the allegations and charges made against me. And other crimes
that were committed that I am not charged with that happened
earlier in the summer that my co-defendants did committ.
[sic] Now I understand my Miranda Rights and do not need my
lawyer present. The only way that this will happen is if Mike
Reynolds is in the room with me while the interview is taking
place. I'm not trying to be rude or heavy-handed, but I
don't want to negogiate [sic] that part of the deal. I
was not forced into writing this letter and I wrote this
letter at my own free will. I'm not under any
mind-altering medications and I'm writing this letter in
a completely sane & sound mind.
letter is dated March 21, 2014, and signed by the Defendant.
During the recorded interview, the Defendant confirmed that
the letter was written by him. Detective Keller also reviewed
the Defendant's Miranda rights with him and the
Defendant signed a waiver of those rights. The signed wavier
was admitted into evidence. Detective Keller asked the
Defendant if he wanted his attorney present, and the
Defendant stated that he did not. The Defendant confirmed
that he wanted Mr. Reynolds in the room during the interview.
Keller testified that during the interview, the Defendant
never indicated that he was "under duress, " and
never mentioned any physical complaints or complaints about
mistreatment in jail.
cross-examination, Detective Keller confirmed that he was
aware at the time of the interview that the Defendant had an
attorney. Detective Keller agreed that he provided Mr.
Reynolds with coffee and a bag of chips during the March 20
interview. He also allowed Mr. Reynolds to use the phone.
Detective Keller agreed that he told Mr. Reynolds that he
could not act as an agent for the police department. During
the March 26 interview involving the Defendant, Detective
Keller agreed that several times Mr. Reynolds "reminded
[the Defendant] of something that . . . [the Defendant] had
Hughes, a Williamson County Sheriff's Office sergeant,
testified that she oversaw the records division. Sergeant
Hughes provided the Defendant's and Mr. Reynolds'
jail records. The trial court entered the records into
evidence. Sergeant Hughes said that the Defendant entered the
Williamson County jail on October 16, 2013. She said that the
Defendant had "quite a few jail infractions" and
was placed on "lockdown" due to his behavior. The
first time the Defendant was placed on lockdown was October
30, 2013. Based upon subsequent infractions, the Defendant
remained on lockdown until July 2014. Sergeant Hughes
explained that a lockdown occurs when "an inmate commits
a jail infraction and they lose privileges. And they're
removed from an open dorm pod and moved into a single man
cell or a double man cell."
Hughes testified that Mr. Reynolds and the Defendant shared a
jail cell on the lock down unit from March 13, 2014 until
March 20, 2014.
the suppression hearing, both the defense and the State
presented portions of the video recorded interviews, and the
trial court stated its intent to review the interviews in
their entirety. We have reviewed the March 20 interview with
Mr. Reynolds and the March 26 interview with Mr. Reynolds and
the Defendant. We summarize the discussion during both
interviews in chronological order. At the onset of the March
20 interview, Mr. Reynolds stated that he "hope[d]"
that the officers would speak to the District Attorney on his
behalf but that, ultimately, he was motivated to speak with
the detectives because he was troubled by the thought of the
eleven-year-old minor victim having a gun held against his
head during the course of the offense. Detective Keller
stated to Mr. Reynolds that he could not make any promises
with regard to the disposition of Mr. Reynolds' pending
cases. Mr. Reynolds responded that he understood. Mr.
Reynolds then provided details about the October 16 offense,
such as how the intruders selected the house, how they
entered, what occurred inside, and what the men did following
the offense. Mr. Reynolds then recounted events surrounding
other burglaries and robberies under investigation in other
video recording, Mr. Reynolds suggested that he might be able
to obtain more information from "Quan, " one of the
co-defendants. Detective Keller responded that he could not
ask Mr. Reynolds to act as his agent. Detective Keller stated
that "if it happen[ed] on its own, " that was
"fine" but that he could not instruct Mr. Reynolds
to speak with anyone. Mr. Reynolds stated that he understood.
Detective Keller told Mr. Reynolds that the "case was
good before" but that Mr. Reynolds' information
"confirm[ed] everything." Mr. Reynolds asked if it
would be helpful for him to encourage the Defendant to write
down the information. Detective Keller again responded that
he "can't have [Mr. Reynolds] do that." Mr.
Reynolds then asked for a cigarette and another cup of
coffee. Mr. Reynolds stated that it cost him money to
communicate with the detectives through mail and asked if
someone would put ten or fifteen dollars in his account.
Detective Keller responded that he was not sure he could do
anything in that regard but that he would "look into
it." He suggested other possible avenues for
Keller left the room to get coffee and when he returned, Mr.
Reynolds asked about using a phone in the room. Detective
Keller gave permission for use of the phone and then left the
room. Mr. Reynolds placed a brief phone call inquiring about
money to put in an account. He then placed two other calls
that appeared to be to attorneys representing him in other
counties. He left messages notifying them that he had spoken
with police providing information on unrelated cases. He
placed two unanswered calls and then spoke with a female
about letters he had written to her.
March 26, 2014 recording, Mr. Reynolds and the Defendant were
alone in the room, and Mr. Reynolds encouraged the Defendant
to be candid with the detectives and "don't hold
nothing back." He told the Defendant to "be
truthful, man." The two appear to have a congenial
relationship and, after an officer brings in food, the two
eat lunch together. The Defendant showed no observable sign
of fear, discontent, or concern. Mr. Reynolds continued to
advise and encourage the Defendant to be honest. They
discussed the status of a co-defendant. They also talked
about rap music and a television show.
detectives entered the room and Detective Keller noted that
he had already issued the Miranda rights to the
Defendant but that he would review the rights again. He then
confirmed that the Defendant initiated the contact with the
police, and the Defendant identified the letter that Mr.
Reynolds delivered to Detective Keller on the Defendant's
behalf. The Defendant confirmed that the letter was in his
handwriting and that he wrote the letter. The Defendant
waived his rights and signed the waiver. The Defendant agreed
that no coercion or threats had been used in order to obtain
his statement. Detective Keller acknowledged Mr.
Reynolds' presence in the room and told the Defendant
that Mr. Reynolds could be removed at any time. Another
detective asked the Defendant if he wanted his attorney
present, and the Defendant said no. The detective then
confirmed with the Defendant that he was willingly speaking
with the detectives.
Keller told the Defendant that they would review the
Williamson County home invasion case, the case at issue in
this appeal, first and then the Defendant was free to talk
about any of the cases in other counties. The Defendant
agreed and recounted what occurred leading up to the home
invasion and their entry into the Brentwood residence when
Mr. Reynolds interrupted to ask to go the bathroom. After he
exited the room, Detective Keller asked the Defendant whether
he wanted to continue without Mr. Reynolds in the room. The
Defendant responded that he wanted to continue with his
statement. The Defendant talked in a narrative manner about
various offenses committed in other counties. He was
occasionally interrupted with follow-up questions from the
detectives. At one point, Mr. Reynolds questioned what the
Defendant was saying based upon a previous conversation
between the two men at the jail. The Defendant, however,
stood his ground as to his version of the events. Mr.
Reynolds again left the room, and the Defendant continued
with the interview.
recorded video, the detectives left the room, and Mr.
Reynolds and the Defendant are left alone. The Defendant ate
while Mr. Reynolds told the Defendant, "Don't leave
nothing out" and told him not to lie. He then talked
about the food they ate and digestion. The detectives
returned and the interview continued. Detective Keller told
the Defendant that he was free to talk about anything he
wanted at that point in the interview. The Defendant
disclosed details about unrelated offenses.
the Defendant concluded his statements regarding offenses in
other counties, the detectives left the room, leaving the
Defendant and Mr. Reynolds alone in the room. Mr. Reynolds
told the Defendant that he was concerned that the Defendant
had withheld information. The Defendant claimed that he
"isn't sure" about some of the information the
detectives were asking him. He maintained that he did not
know everyone's name involved and said that he had not
seen one of the people discussed in six months. Mr. Reynolds
then leaves the room and when he returned, the Defendant was
escorted to the bathroom. While the Defendant was out of the
room, Mr. Reynolds told Detective Keller that he was going to
attempt to speak with "Quan, " and Detective Keller
responded that he could not assist or be involved in any way.
The Defendant re-entered the room during the discussion, and
Mr. Reynolds says to the Defendant, "We are talking
Defendant testified during the suppression hearing about his
initial appearance in General Sessions Court. He recalled
having "an incident" in jail that resulted in the
Defendant being "tased" on his "right
buttock." The Defendant said that he also suffered an
injury to his feet but, due to the tasing, he could not
remember what had happened, and the deputies would not tell
him how his feet were injured. He said that, following his
arrest, he experienced withdrawal symptoms from his drug use.
He said that he experienced hallucinations and talked to
"angels and [his] mom." He said that, at the time,
he believed "everybody was trying to kill me."
Defendant testified that he was placed on lockdown for nine
months. He said that on lockdown a prisoner is released from
his cell for only one hour a day. The Defendant said he was
also placed in the "Crows Nest" for two and a half
weeks. He described it as "the worse place to be."
He said that he wore a "turtle suit, " and was
"cold all the time." He said that he "got
tased" and would wake up "hitting the wall."
He recalled that he "cried a lot, " did not eat,
and did not sleep during this time, which added "to all
the craziness." From the "Crows Nest, " the
Defendant was moved to a "suicide pod" for a month.
He described this as "pretty much like the Crows Nest,
except there were people around."
Defendant testified that in late February, Mr. Reynolds was
placed in a cell with him. The Defendant said that he and Mr.
Reynolds remained cellmates until the end of March. He
confirmed that Mr. Reynolds was his cellmate on the day the
Defendant gave a statement to the police. About Mr. Reynolds,
the Defendant stated that he was "pushy" and
"you could tell he wanted to know some information about
anything." The Defendant stated his awareness that Mr.
Reynolds was trying to obtain information about the
Defendant's case from him and noted that he also observed
Mr. Reynolds engaging in this behavior with other inmates.
The Defendant said that he "could already tell [Mr.
Reynolds] was trying to talk to [him] and get [him] to say
something." The Defendant recalled that on March 20,
2014, Mr. Reynolds became "more aggressive in his
approach." On that date, the Defendant was also moved
out of the cell for a few hours due to a misunderstanding.
When he returned to the cell he had shared with Mr. Reynolds,
Mr. Reynolds was gone. The Defendant was asleep when Mr.
Reynolds returned. Mr. Reynolds woke the Defendant and told
him that he had been questioned by the police about the
Defendant testified that Mr. Reynolds encouraged the
Defendant to talk with police but when the Defendant
"started getting mad, " Mr. Reynolds "let it
all go." The following day, Mr. Reynolds again
encouraged the Defendant to speak with police. When the
Defendant declined to do so, Mr. Reynolds threatened to harm
the Defendant's family so the Defendant agreed to write a
letter to the police as dictated by Mr. Reynolds. The
Defendant stated that Mr. Reynolds also determined that the
Defendant's lawyer should not be present but that Mr.
Reynolds would attend the police interview with the
Defendant. During the police interview, Mr. Reynolds would
remind the Defendant of details that Mr. Reynolds wanted him
Defendant testified that, during the time leading up to the
police interview, he was depressed, cried a lot, and was
lonely. He said that he had had little experience with jail
and little human interaction due to his placement on
cross-examination, the Defendant testified that he had
graduated from high school and was in his first year of
college at Tennessee State University at the time of the
offense. At the time he was taken into custody, he was using
"Lean, " Xanax, marijuana, and drinking five or six
bottles of "regular cough syrup" a day. He stated
that his behavior when initially taken into custody was due
to withdrawal from these drugs. The Defendant stated that
Sergeant Hughes "fabrica[ted]" his testimony that
Mr. Reynolds and the Defendant were housed together from
March 13 through March 20, 2014. The Defendant was adamant
that Mr. Reynolds and he shared a cell on the Defendant's
birthday, March 3.
Defendant testified that he was afraid of Mr. Reynolds and
believed that Mr. Reynolds was working with the Brentwood
police. He stated that he wanted his attorney present but
that he was afraid of Mr. Reynolds, so he told the police he
did not want his attorney. The Defendant said that had he
told the police he wanted his attorney or that he did not
want Mr. Reynolds in the room, he would have been putting his
family in danger. The Defendant identified a letter he wrote
on March 30, 2014, to Detective Keller. He agreed that, at
that time, Mr. Reynolds was no longer in the same cell with
him. In the letter, the Defendant referenced his March 26
statement to police, stating that he wanted to correct a
misstatement regarding the Belle Meade case. The letter
reads, in part, "However everything else that I
mentioned was undoubtedly the utmost truth. I'm a
nuisance on your life for which you, the victims, and other
law enforcement don't need at this time, which is why
I'm writing you now trying to right all the wrongs."
The Defendant denied any truth to his statements in the March
30 letter. Although Mr. Reynolds was no longer housed with
him, the Defendant said he wrote the letter under Mr.
Reynolds' instruction. He said that Mr. Reynolds sent him
messages through other inmates at the jail, checking to see
if he had mailed the letter yet. Still in fear for his
family's safety, the Defendant drafted the letter and
mailed it to Detective Keller.
State then played a portion of a recorded jail phone call
between the Defendant and his father that took place
immediately after the Defendant provided his statement to the
police on March 26, 2014.
Defendant: Hey Dad. Okay, I been - I been praying about this,
and - I'll just be honest. They got me. They got me dead
cold, Dad. And, I mean, they have me to the middle. I mean,
they - they got- they had me pinned down. I mean, like - the
evidence - they just got me.
Father: How do you know?
Defendant: Cuz, I mean - I just know. I mean, one of my
friends already talked, and - it just all - it just looked
Father: So you talked to them?
Father: So what does that mean?
Defendant: I'm better off. I mean, if I wouldn't have
talked - I mean, if I would have went to trial, Dad, they
would have gave me life. I mean . . .
Father: What are they going to give you now?
Defendant: I don't know, but whatever I get now, it's
gonna be ten times better than I would have got. Cuz I
didn't tell them just about this incident. I told them
about this incident and some other ones that I know about.
And, uh, they were just -
. . . .
Defendant: I mean, if I get a good lawyer, it could - it
could - I just need a - a good lawyer, really.
. . . .
Father: When did you talk to them? Today?
Defendant: Yeah, just a minute ago.
Father: You walked in there and talked to them?
Defendant: Yeah, I mean, they just started asking me
questions and I just started answering them.
Father: Okay. I mean - at least they're gonna get you out
of lockdown, anyway.
Defendant: I don't even know if they're going to do
Defendant: But, I mean - is, I'm - I'm way better
off. If I would have been fighting this, Dad, it - it
wouldn't have turned out good. I already know it. They
already brought, uh - one - the one guy - that uh, they let
out, they brought him back.
Defendant: So, and I just found that out. So, and, they just
- they, I mean, I think I did the ...