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State v. Hufford

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 12, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
KELLEY HUFFORD

          Assigned on Briefs August 21, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 41301219 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         A jury convicted the Defendant, Kelley Hufford, of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, three counts of aggravated kidnapping, and tampering with evidence for the abduction and homicide of her boyfriend. On appeal, the Defendant raises only a challenge to the territorial jurisdiction of the court, alleging that the evidence did not establish that the crimes occurred in Tennessee. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence established that the trial court had territorial jurisdiction, and we affirm the convictions, remanding for merger of the kidnapping offenses.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Travis R. Meeks (on appeal and at trial), and Kenneth Merriweather (at trial), Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kelley Hufford.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ronald L. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Helen Young and Robert Nash, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, PRESIDING JUDGE

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The body of the victim, burnt, beaten, and harboring a shotgun wound, was discovered on the morning of May 18, 2013, in a wooded area of Clarksville. The victim was eventually identified as the Defendant's boyfriend, Mr. Jimmy Boyer. An investigation implicated the Defendant and co-defendants Mr. Fredrick "Frank" Persinger, who was the Defendant's new love interest, and Mr. Coray "Ray" Knight, who called the Defendant "Mom[]s." The Defendant and co-defendants were indicted for conspiracy to commit first degree murder, first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of kidnapping, especially aggravated kidnapping accomplished by use or display of a deadly weapon, especially aggravated kidnapping by serious bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping with the intent to facilitate the commission of first degree murder, aggravated kidnapping with the intent to inflict serious bodily injury or to terrorize the victim, aggravated kidnapping committed while in possession of a deadly weapon, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence. The trials of the Defendant and co-defendants were severed, and the Defendant was acquitted of abuse of a corpse but convicted of all other charges. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the State failed to prove territorial jurisdiction. We give a brief summary of the facts at trial.

         Sometime around 6:00 a.m. on May 18, 2013, Mr. Christopher Bonine was driving near the intersection of East Fork and West Fork roads in Montgomery County, Tennessee, and saw the victim's burnt body down a dead-end gravel road near a pumping station. The victim was clad only in pajama pants, with no shoes, shirt, or identification. However, the victim was wearing a unique ring, and a photograph of the ring was released in an effort to identify the victim. One of the victim's friends, thinking he recognized the ring and failing to reach the victim, contacted the Defendant, who assured him that the victim had gone to Montana.

         At the time of the murder, the victim suffered from addiction to alcohol and drugs and was financially dependent on the Defendant, with whom he lived in Oak Grove, Kentucky. He was estranged from his own family and was not in regular contact with friends. The victim was acquainted, and had for many years been on friendly terms, with co-defendant Mr. Persinger, a recent widower. The victim knew Mr. Knight through the Defendant, and their relationship was complicated by a competition for the Defendant's affections and financial help. The Defendant was a second-grade teacher and had a steady income, which she used to assist the victim, her daughters, and Mr. Knight.

         The victim had recently been released from jail and was living at the Defendant's home with the Defendant and her daughter, Ms. Laurie Hufford, with whom the victim had a close, parental relationship. However, the Defendant resented the victim for not contributing to the household, and the victim was regularly sleeping on the couch. The Defendant had previously evicted the victim from her home due to his addiction but had always permitted him to come back. Prior to the crime, she had consulted her attorney about an eviction, and he had advised her that the victim had a warrant for his arrest and that she could have him arrested and evict him while he was in jail.

         The State introduced proof in the form of numerous text messages and records of telephone conversations that the Defendant attempted to anger Mr. Persinger, who was in love with the Defendant, and Mr. Knight, who was the son of the Defendant's ex-boyfriend, against the victim. The proof tended to show that Mr. Knight carried out the actual kidnapping and murder of the victim and that the Defendant went to a bar during the time of the murder in order to establish an alibi. The Defendant testified and attempted to show that she had only asked the co-defendants for assistance in evicting the victim, that Mr. Knight "snapped," and that Mr. ...


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