Assigned on Briefs December 3, 2019
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 16-06940 Lee V.
Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Donald Dodd, of
second degree murder as charged, and the trial court imposed
a sentence of twenty-five years at one hundred percent
release eligibility. See Tenn. Code Ann.
§§ 39-13-210, 40-35-501(i). On appeal, the
Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain
his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Earnest J. Beasley (on appeal) and Joseph A. McClusky (at
trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Samantha L. Simpson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P.
Weirich, District Attorney General; and Marianne L. Bell and
Patrick Newport, Assistant District Attorneys General, for
the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., and J. Ross Dyer, JJ.,
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE.
trial, James Pool, commonly known as "J.P.,
" testified that he met Rachel Pool, the
victim, in 2004 when he was twenty years old and the victim
was sixteen years old, and they began dating. J.P. said that
the victim was seventeen years old when she moved in with him
and that the victim liked to drink alcohol and take
the victim and J.P. had their first child, they began having
relationship problems because of the victim's substance
abuse issues. They later reconciled, and the victim gave
birth to their second child. The victim and J.P. married in
2012. J.P. said that he, the victim, and their children lived
with his mother, Renee Pool, at her home ("the Pool
getting married, J.P. said the victim continued to have
substance abuse problems, and in April 2013, the victim
received thirty days of in-patient treatment at Lakeside
Behavioral Health System ("Lakeside"). At some
point, the victim told J.P. that "if she ever was to
commit suicide, . . . she would [overdose] on medication like
Marilyn Monroe." He acknowledged that this was the only
time the victim talked to him about suicide. When the victim
relapsed a second time, she returned to Lakeside for sixty
days. In 2014, J.P. filed for divorce, which was finalized on
April 15, 2015. Pursuant to the divorce, J.P. received full
custody of the couple's children, and the victim received
supervised visitation with the children.
said that in December 2015, he and the victim began having
contentious conversations about her seeing the children,
although the victim was able to see the children the day
after Christmas. During this visit, the victim was
"sober," looked "healthy," and said she
"wanted her family back."
stated that in January 2016, the victim visited their
children at the Pool residence three times. During these
visits, the victim looked good, did not seem depressed, and
"enjoyed every minute of" the time she spent with
their children. The victim was not drinking and was taking
her prescription medication as directed. During this time
period, J.P. informed the victim that she needed to be a
mother to their children before he could consider a
January 20, 2016, J.P. spoke to the victim, who was staying
at her parent's home. He said that the victim
"sounded good" and "was excited to come back
and see the children." On January 21, 2016, J.P. and the
victim discussed their upcoming court date, which concerned
issues of custody and the victim's unpaid child support
payments. That day, the victim spoke to her children on the
phone. At 9:01 p.m. on January 21, 2016, the victim texted
J.P. that she loved him, which was her last communication
with him prior to her death.
said the victim was left-handed. He noted that although the
Defendant claimed the victim committed suicide, the victim
did not like guns, and he had never seen the victim holding
or shooting a gun. J.P. said the victim refused to go hunting
with him and did not like the fact that he had guns in their
home during their marriage.
said he did not know that the victim was seeing the Defendant
until January 2016. When he confronted the victim about the
Defendant, she denied having a relationship with him. J.P.
acknowledged that in December 2015, the victim had said she
was depressed about not seeing the children. Although the
victim did not drink alcohol around the children, she had
admitted during some of their telephone conversations that
she was still drinking. J.P. acknowledged that the victim
would go from being completely fine to using drugs and
alcohol again. However, J.P. asserted that the victim never
said she wanted to kill herself in December 2015 or January
2016. He also said that by late 2015 and January 2016, there
were no signs that the victim was still drinking or using
drugs. J.P. said that by January 21, 2016, the victim was in
good spirits because she had been able to see her children
and seemed "completely fine."
Pool, J.P.'s mother, testified that on December 26, 2015,
she picked up the victim from her father's home and
brought her to the Pool residence to visit her children.
During this visit, the victim was "really, really
excited" to see her children, and her children were
thrilled to see her. Renee said that the victim was
"very attentive with the kids" during this visit.
said that between January 16-19, 2016, the victim again
visited with her children and cared for them by feeding them
breakfast, bathing them, cleaning their rooms, making their
lunches, and riding with them to school. Renee said that the
victim told her that she wanted her family back during this
visit. She said the victim was "in very, very good
spirits" and was "clearheaded." Although the
victim said she was afraid that she would go to jail because
of her unpaid child support, Renee assured her that J.P.
would not allow her to go to jail. On the afternoon of
January 19, 2016, Renee said the victim told her that she
would visit again the next weekend. Renee confirmed that the
victim was left-handed.
Ganong testified that she considered the victim to be her
sister because her parents had obtained custody of the victim
when the victim was sixteen years old. Ganong said she talked
to the victim on the phone in April 2015. During this
conversation, the victim "sounded great" and did
not seem depressed. Ganong asserted that she had never seen
the victim shooting a gun and that the victim did not like
guns. When Ganong heard about the victim's death, she
thought it "was a joke" because the victim
"never [would] have shot herself in the face." She
said that if the victim had decided to commit suicide, she
"would have overdosed" because "[s]he was very
particular about the way she looked" and would not have
"want[ed] to mess her face up." Ganong confirmed
that the victim was left-handed and that the victim slept
with her hands under her face and with her head on her
shoulder. Ganong acknowledged that the victim went through
good periods and then bad periods when she was drinking and
Sprague, the victim's father, testified that the
Defendant moved into the victim's home, where he rented a
room. Sprague said that although the Defendant said he had
fallen in love with the victim and wanted to marry her, the
victim told Sprague that "she didn't need another
man in her life." He said the victim eventually moved
out of her home because the rent was too high and later moved
into the Defendant's apartment.
moving in with the Defendant, the victim would talk to J.P.
on the phone, and the Defendant "would get upset"
and would argue with her. Toward the end of 2015, J.P. began
allowing the victim to have supervised visits with their
children. When the victim went to the Pool residence to visit
her children, the Defendant would often call Sprague looking
for her. Around Thanksgiving 2015, Sprague and his wife spent
time with the victim and the Defendant at their apartment.
During this visit, J.P. called the victim on the phone, and
the Defendant "got upset." Later in that visit, the
Defendant told Sprague he "took a bunch of pills"
because seeing the victim talking to J.P. "made him want
to kill hi[m]self."
said that on January 21, 2016, the victim came to his house
after staying at the Pool residence for three or four days.
During this visit, the victim asked Sprague if he thought she
should reconcile with J.P., and Sprague told her that he
"had no problem with it" and that "it was up
to her." He said the victim "was going to go back
with [J.P., ] but she wanted them both to go to counseling.
Sprague believed that J.P. also wanted to reconcile with the
victim. On January 21, 2016, the victim "seemed
fine" and planned to visit her children the next day.
Sprague said the Defendant had texted the victim that
"whole afternoon before he got off work," asking
the victim to return to his apartment, even though she did
not want to go back there. Around 7:00 p.m. on January 21,
2016, the Defendant picked up the victim, and Sprague rode
with them to the store. When Sprague returned to the
Defendant's car after completing his shopping, he
"could see and hear" the Defendant and the victim
arguing, although he could not tell what was being said. He
noted the victim "snapped" at him ...