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State v. Pettus

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 31, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
SHALONDA RENEE PETTUS

          Assigned on Briefs June 25, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2017-C-2163 Angelita Blackshear Dalton, Judge.

         The defendant, Shalonda Renee Pettus, entered an open plea to aggravated child neglect, and the trial court sentenced her to fifteen years' incarceration in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court improperly weighed enhancement factor (1). After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Jay Umerley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Shalonda Renee Pettus.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Jeffrey A. George, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE

         Facts and Procedural History

         The defendant was charged with murder in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate aggravated child neglect. She subsequently agreed to plead guilty to aggravated child neglect. Pursuant to Hicks v. State, the defendant agreed to be sentenced as a Range II offender with sentencing to be determined by the trial court. 945 S.W.2d 706, 709 (Tenn. 1997). A sentencing hearing was held on April 12, 2018.

         During the sentencing hearing, the State introduced the presentence report as well as the testimony of Detective Chris Bowden. Detective Bowden with the Metro Nashville Police Department testified he responded to Metro General Hospital on October 22, 2016, and encountered the six-month-old victim, who was taken to the hospital by his mother, the defendant. Although hospital staff attempted to resuscitate the victim, they were unable to revive him, and death was pronounced shortly after arrival. The defendant told Detective Bowden that she placed the victim on her bed before falling asleep on the couch. When she awoke several hours later, the defendant found the victim unresponsive. She attempted to perform CPR and rushed him to the hospital.

         Detective Bowden then accompanied the defendant to her apartment and reviewed the scene. The bed where the defendant had placed the victim was a full-sized adult bed, and had numerous items on it including a pack of cigarettes, a loose cigarette, a package of condoms, a baby toy, clothing, a bottle, a green plastic bag, a burned spoon, a shoe, a cleaning bottle, and an ash tray containing cigarettes, a "marijuana blunt," and an item "used to smoke crack cocaine." The plastic bag was "twisted into a narrow cylindrical shape" that appeared to be the same shape and size as the victim's throat. Detective Bowden noticed fluid on the bag and sent it to the crime lab for further analysis. The DNA recovered from the plastic bag matched a DNA sample from the victim.

         Detective Bowden testified the Department of Children's Services ("DCS") also conducted an investigation in this case. A DCS case worker asked the defendant to submit to a drug test the same day the victim was taken to the hospital. The results of the drug test revealed the defendant tested positive for benzodiazepines, cocaine, methamphetamine, and cannabinoids.

         On cross-examination, Detective Bowden acknowledged the victim did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death, and the autopsy report indicated there were no signs of abuse or trauma. Following Detective Bowden's testimony, the State concluded its proof. The defendant called Ruthie Pettus, Chantele Toran, ...


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