Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs June 25, 2019
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2017-C-2163
Angelita Blackshear Dalton, Judge.
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.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Umerley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Shalonda
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
Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.
ROSS DYER, JUDGE
and Procedural History
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,
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.
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.
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
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, ...