Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session October 15, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. 17-CR-1576 Larry
B. Stanley, Jr., Judge
trial, a Warren County jury found Defendant, Donald Lee
Shields, Jr., guilty of three counts of especially aggravated
kidnapping, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of
attempted aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced
Defendant as a Range I standard offender to an effective
sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, Defendant argues that
the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for
especially aggravated kidnapping. After a thorough review of
the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments
of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
S. Peters, Winchester, Tennessee, for the appellant, Donald
Lee Shields, Jr.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark
B. Thornton, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Lisa S.
Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Matthew Colvard,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John Everett Williams, P.J., and Robert H. Montgomery,
Jr., J., joined.
L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE
and Procedural History
addition to Defendant, the grand jury indicted Co-Defendants
Zachary Dale Turner, Jeffrey Scott Pegg, and Ashley Dawn
Golden. A summary of the counts charged against
Defendant is as follows:
Especially aggravated kidnapping
Especially aggravated kidnapping
Especially aggravated kidnapping
Especially aggravated kidnapping
Guilty of false imprisonment
Guilty of attempted aggravated assault
Turner submitted guilty pleas, and the trial court severed
the trials of the two remaining co-defendants.
Defendant's trial, Lisa Denson testified that in August
2017 she went to McMinnville with her boyfriend, James
Beaver, and her friends Stephanie Vanatta and Rahsaan Dye
("the victims") because Ms. Vanatta wanted "to
pick up something." Ms. Denson said that she had never
been to McMinnville prior to this trip and that she was
"completely lost on where [she was]." The victims
arrived at Co-Defendant Turner's house, which was
"out in the middle of nowhere[.]" Ms. Vanatta went
inside the house, while Ms. Denson, Mr. Beaver, and Mr. Dye
remained in the car. Approximately thirty minutes later, Ms.
Vanatta exited the house, and Defendant and Co-Defendants
Pegg and Turner followed, telling the victims that they
"had to come in." Ms. Denson heard the
co-defendants refer to Defendant as "D.J." The
victims followed the co-defendants back into the house, and
"they" said that twenty-six grams of
methamphetamine were missing, worth approximately $2, 000.
The co-defendants told the victims that they could not leave
until the methamphetamine was found. Ms. Denson stated that
the co-defendants suspected that Ms. Vanatta or another of
Co-Defendant Turner's customers, Jamie Christenson, had
taken the drugs.
Denson testified that, at some point after the victims went
into Co-Defendant Turner's house, Defendant left. The
victims sat together on a couch and were held at gunpoint by
Co-Defendants Turner and Pegg. Ms. Denson stated that the
co-defendants collected the victims' cell phones so that
no one could contact police. The co-defendants required the
four victims to write out their names, addresses,
families' names, and social security numbers.
several hours, the victims and Ms. Christenson "all got
taken outside" and were made to fight one another in an
effort to produce the drugs. Ms. Denson stated that Defendant
returned during this fight. Defendant told the victims to tie
themselves with ropes so that he and Co-Defendant Turner
"wouldn't be charged with it." Ms. Denson said
that "[t]here was a big metal chain attached to the back
of [Defendant's] truck to [latch them]selves onto the
back[.]" Defendant told the victims that he would
"take [them] for a trip around the yard." Ms.
Denson testified that, once the victims were latched to the
back of the truck, Defendant "jerked it in drive,"
and the truck pulled the rope tighter around Ms. Denson's
ankles. Ms. Denson screamed, and after about ten seconds,
Defendant stopped the truck, releasing Ms. Denson's rope.
Ms. Denson stated that this resulted in bruising to her
thigh, back, and right ankle. Ms. Vanatta then asked
Co-Defendant Turner if the victims could "try to find a
way to come up with $2, 000[.]" The victims each tried
calling friends or family to procure the funds, and the
victims were required to make calls using speakerphone so
that Co-Defendant Golden could monitor the conversations. Ms.
Denson stated that, when Mr. Beaver tried to tell his mother
on the phone about his situation, Defendant came in and said,
"I should gut you. Hang up that phone right now."
Denson testified that, while the other victims were making
phone calls, Co-Defendant Turner took her to the bathroom and
raped her. Additionally, each victim underwent a "cavity
search" by undressing and bending over a kitchen counter
while the co-defendants checked for the drugs. During these
cavity searches, Defendant was in the kitchen holding a gun.
Defendant warned the victims that, if they moved, he would
"shoot [their] kneecaps out." Defendant and
Co-Defendant Turner took Mr. Beaver and Mr. Dye outside and
forced them to do yardwork to "work off the money that
Denson testified that, the second morning of the ordeal,
police knocked on Co-Defendant Turner's front door, and
the co-defendants forbade the victims to move, speak, or make
any noise. Eventually, the police left. Later, Ms. Denson
heard a car horn honking. The co-defendants told the victims
that "the car was reported stolen" and "to run
because the police were coming." Ms. Denson, Mr. Beaver,
and Mr. Dye "[took] off running" to the nearest
neighbor, approximately one mile away. The neighbor called
the police and then told Ms. Denson that, two weeks prior,
"a man was shot dead in [Co-Defendant Turner's]
driveway." Ms. Denson testified that, in total, the
victims were confined to Co-Defendant Turner's house for
cross-examination, Ms. Denson admitted that Ms. Vanatta asked
for a ride to McMinnville to buy methamphetamine. Ms. Denson
agreed that she also used methamphetamine at that time. Ms.
Denson testified that she spoke with Investigator Jody
Cavanaugh on the night of August 12, 2017, and provided
complete information about what had occurred, including
giving him the name "D.J." Ms. Denson stated that,
initially, Co-Defendant Turner carried a shotgun, but when
the victims were outside latching themselves to the truck,
she did not see anyone with a shotgun. Ms. Denson stated that
Defendant carried a "silver, pearl-handled pistol."
Ms. Denson testified that, when they were latched to the
truck and Defendant "jerked it in drive," it did
not go further than about "a foot and a half"
because there was too much weight attached to the back of the
truck. She stated that the victims were not treated "as
bad[ly] until [Defendant] showed up. It got worse."
redirect examination, Ms. Denson testified that the victims
believed that, if they tried to escape, they "would have
been shot and killed" because Co-Defendant Turner said,
"[I]f you try to leave[, ] it's not going to be
pretty." Ms. Denson stated that, while she was held
captive at the house, she observed a surveillance system with
"six to eight different camera slots [with] cameras
pointed everywhere outside and inside the house." She
testified that, just before the victims latched themselves to
the back of the truck, Defendant and Co-Defendants Pegg and
Turner were "stomping" Mr. Dye "with their
boots[, ]" and Defendant cut Mr. Dye with a knife on the
back and side of his neck. Ms. Denson stated that, when
Investigator Cavanaugh later showed her a picture of
Defendant for identification, she "shook" and
"cringed" because "the stuff [Defendant] put
[the victims] through was really, really scary."
Vanatta testified that she was currently in custody in a
different jurisdiction on a probation violation and drug
charges. She stated that, in August of 2017, she knew that
Co-Defendant Turner's house on Cherry Springs Road in
Warren County was a place where she could buy drugs. Ms.
Vanatta testified that, after she left Co-Defendant
Turner's house, she heard someone whistle and say
"come back in." Co-Defendant Turner informed her
that "he had dope missing and that everybody had to come
in" because Ms. Vanatta could have stolen it and then
handed it to one of the car's occupants when she returned
to the car. Ms. Vanatta stated that Co-Defendant Turner
carried a shotgun and said, "[N]obody is f'ing
leaving." Co-Defendant Turner suspected that Ms.
Vanatta, Co-Defendant Pegg, or Ms. Christenson had taken the
drugs because they were the only ones who had been in his
bedroom. When Ms. Christenson returned to the house,
Defendant was with her. Co-Defendant Turner forced Ms.
Vanatta, Co-Defendant Pegg, and Ms. Christenson to fight each
other to "prove that [they] didn't take it."
Ms. Vanatta testified that Defendant carried a pistol and
told the victims he would "shoot [their] kneecaps
out" if they did not cooperate.
Vanatta stated that Ms. Denson, Co-Defendant Pegg, and Ms.
Christenson were required to tie themselves to the back of
Defendant's truck. After these three were released, Ms.
Vanatta was "chained up" to the truck. Defendant
got into the truck and "put it in drive[.]" Ms.
Vanatta testified that the ropes tightened and that she
started screaming. She asked Co-Defendant Turner if the
victims could "please try to call and get some
money." Defendant responded by saying, "Let me take
them just one time around the yard."
Vanatta testified that the victims called friends and family
asking for money. She said that, when Mr. Beaver called for
help, he said "something about 'they got me' or
'they won't let me go' or something because they
took the phone away from him[.]" Ms. Vanatta stated that
Defendant and Ms. Christenson decided to do cavity searches
on the victims and that Defendant was "[s]tanding there
with a pistol" during the searches. She said, "We
were forced to get naked in front of everybody that was
standing there and this girl [Ms. Christenson, ] she stuck
her fingers inside of me and I was on my period." Ms.
Vanatta said that the co-defendants were "acting crazy,
hostile" and that, every time Co-Defendant Turner would
calm down, Defendant "would get him amped up again
talking about . . . taking [the victims] around the yard one
cross-examination, Ms. Vanatta testified that she had no
recollection of meeting Defendant or Ms. Christenson prior to
the August 2017 incident.
Beaver testified that he was currently in custody for a
probation violation. He said that, in August 2017, Ms.
Vanatta asked him to drive her to McMinnville in exchange for
some gas money. Mr. Beaver stated that Ms. Vanatta went into
Co-Defendant Turner's house, and after she returned to
the car, Defendant and Co-Defendant Turner came outside and
told them to go into the house. Mr. Beaver said that he heard
the other co-defendants refer to Defendant as
"D.J." Co-Defendant Turner told the victims that
"there was dope that came up missing" and that he
would not release the victims until they gave him the money
for the missing drugs.
Beaver stated, "Couple of times I got hit. I don't
know by who [sic]. People had guns. He just told us not to
leave the house, not to leave the residence. And when we
tr[ied] to make phone calls, they [took] the phones from us.
They took everything from us." Mr. Beaver believed that,
if any of the victims tried to leave, they would "get
beat up" and possibly "shot." He said that the
victims were forced to go outside and that Defendant and
Co-Defendant Turner told the victims to tie their ankles to
the back of a truck. Mr. Beaver said the truck
"tugged" and "got tight." The victims
were "all screaming." Mr. Beaver stated that Mr.
Dye "[got] a little extra because of the fact he's
black" and that Defendant and ...