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State v. Forrester

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 27, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs July 9, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Henderson County No. 18032-2 Donald H. Allen, Judge

         The defendant, Trenton Ray Forrester, aggrieved of his Henderson County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated burglary and theft of property valued at more than $1, 000 but less than $2, 500, appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the propriety of the fully-incarcerative, six-year effective sentence. We affirm both the conviction and the accompanying sentence. Because, however, the trial court failed to consider the defendant's ability to pay when setting the amount of restitution, we reverse the restitution order and remand the case for a new restitution hearing.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed in part; Reversed in part; Remanded

          Hayley F. Johnson, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Trenton Ray Forrester.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Jody S. Pickens, District Attorney General; and Angela Scott, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.



         The Henderson County Grand Jury charged the defendant with aggravated burglary and theft of property valued at more than $1, 000 but less than $2, 500 related to the September 26, 2017 burglary of the residence of James Donnelly, Jr., and the theft of property therefrom.

         At the June 2018 trial, the victim, James Donnelly, Jr., testified that he had known the defendant since 2013 and that the defendant lived with him for a period of time in 2014. The defendant also worked for the victim periodically. The victim also said that he had been a friend of Daniel Tuten. Both the defendant and Mr. Tuten were familiar with the layout of the victim's residence. The victim said that his job required that he travel out of town for extended periods of time and that he was gone from his Henderson County residence from the beginning of August 2017 until the end of September or beginning of October 2017. He recalled that immediately upon entering his bedroom upon his return, he saw that a tall dresser "was turned over in the floor," and when he opened the blinds, he saw that the bedroom window was open.

         At that point, the victim began looking around the residence to see if any of his property was missing. He said that a 12-gauge "870 pump shotgun" was missing from the top of his bedroom closet. Clips for an AR-15 along with "a 100 round drum full of .223" ammunition was missing from the living room. The victim then went outside to the shop where he kept his race car. Inside, he discovered that "a bunch of [his] shop tools," including welders and air compressors, were missing. Inside a second shop building, the victim found that "a big chop saw," a "speaker box," drill presses, and other tools were missing. The trailer for the victim's race car was missing from a third shop building. The victim observed tire tracks leading from the shop showing where "the race car trailer was pulled around the back side of [the] house." The victim noted that "an 8600 watt generator" and "an aluminum toolbox" were on the race car trailer. The victim estimated the value of the property taken to be "approximately $7, 000."

         The victim recalled that he communicated with the defendant via SnapChat "a week or two before" he returned home from his work trip. During that conversation, the victim told the defendant that he was not home.

         The victim said that he telephoned the police and reported the theft of his property. A day or so later, the victim "gathered up some pictures of some of the items that [were] stolen and . . . made a $500 reward on Facebook." In response to information received related to the Facebook post, the victim "went towards Perry County over there and . . . rode up on Charlie Hall's yard sale." The victim immediately recognized his property among the items for sale, and he telephoned the police. The police arrived approximately 45 minutes later, and the victim was able to reclaim some of his property: "I got the generator, my shotgun, the three drill presses, a couple of power tools, cordless drills, the two spare tires that was my camper spare tires and the extension ladder." He was unable to recover the trailer.

         The victim testified that he had previously seen the defendant driving a black Tahoe sport utility vehicle.

         Charlie Hall testified that he supplemented his income by buying property at flea markets and yard sales and then reselling it at his own yard sale. He recalled that at the end of September 2017, Daniel Tuten, whom Mr. Hall had known for years, contacted him via telephone about some property and then came to his yard sale with the defendant. Mr. Tuten and the defendant arrived in a "black SUV, Tahoe-like thing" pulling a trailer. The two men had "[a] welder and a generator and some other tool-like stuff" in the vehicle. Mr. Tuten had previously assured Mr. Hall that the property was not stolen, and, when asked, the defendant "said [the property] was his" and then told Mr. Hall "how he had accumulated it." The defendant told Mr. Hall that "he works on the road so he needed that stuff to work on the road and he was laid off so he was going to have to sell it and then when he went back to work he would replace it." Mr. Tuten did not claim to own any of the property. Mr. Tuten and the defendant brought two loads of property to him, and Mr. Hall gave approximately $700 to Mr. Tuten in exchange for the property.

         Mr. Hall listed some of the items for sale on Facebook. Later, the victim contacted him, and then the police came to the location where Mr. Hall was having a yard sale. Mr. Hall returned the victim's property and then "bought a generator back for $200" and returned it to the victim. Mr. Hall was unable to recover some of the victim's property that he had already sold.

         During cross-examination, Mr. Hall admitted that he made no mention of the defendant's claiming ownership of the property in his written statement to the police. In that statement, Mr. Hall indicated that the defendant and Mr. Tuten made two trips to sell him items; the first trip included tools and a shotgun while the second trip included a trailer, generator, toolbox, and other tools.

         Henderson County Sheriff's Department Investigator Jeremiah Adams testified that he conducted the investigation into the burglary and theft of the victim's property. Investigator Adams said that he attempted to recover fingerprints from the victim's residence but was unable to lift any usable prints because of the rainy weather. Investigator Adams said that, upon interviewing Mr. Hall, he learned that Mr. Hall came into possession of the victim's property on September 26, 2017. He also assisted in the recovery of some of the ...

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