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State v. Loggins

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

July 15, 2014

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
VERNELL LOGGINS, JR., Appellant

Page 106

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Franklin County. Honorable Gael D. Wood.

For Appellant: Emmett D. Queener, Assistant Public Defender, Columbia, MO.

For Respondent: Daniel N. McPherson, Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, MO.

Patricia L. Cohen, Judge. Lisa S. Van Amburg, P.J., Patricia L. Cohen, J., and Philip M. Hess, J., concurring.

OPINION

Page 107

Patricia L. Cohen, Judge

Introduction

Vernell Loggins, Jr. (Defendant) appeals the judgment of conviction entered by the Circuit Court of Franklin County after a jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree. Defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's: (1) motion for acquittal; and (2) motion to suppress and admitting at trial, the iPhone and images seized from the iPhone. We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence at trial established the following: On the night of November 1, 2009, Defendant's girlfriend, Stephanie Fields, went to his apartment to confront him about cheating on her. Defendant stabbed Ms. Fields with a knife in her neck, arms, chest, side, and back, inflicting a total of twenty-five stab wounds, and causing her death. Defendant then cut off Ms. Fields' head and forearms and attempted to amputate her right leg. He placed her body in a Toter brand trash can he purchased from Walmart on the morning of November 2, 2009. Defendant left the trash can next to the dumpster in his apartment complex.

On the morning of November 3, 2009, an employee of the apartment complex discovered Ms. Fields' body in the trash can next to the dumpster and told his manager, who called the police. Officer Marc Hillen from the St. Louis County Police Department responded to the report and discovered two trash bags in the dumpster containing, among other items: latex gloves; red-stained paper towels; Resolve cleaner; a Walmart receipt for Resolve cleaner, Tide detergent, and a Toter trash can; three empty ice bags; a Toter trash can label; and mail addressed to Defendant. Officer William Knittle of the Eureka Police Department obtained surveillance video of Defendant purchasing a Toter brand trash can from the Eureka Walmart the morning of November 2, 2009.

The police obtained a warrant to search Defendant's residence and vehicle. The warrant authorized law enforcement to search Defendant's residence for " Knife or knives, cutting instruments, bloody clothing, bloody towels or rags, blood evidence, including blood splatter evidence, body parts, clothing, including Cardinal [sic] baseball cap[.]" Upon execution of the warrant, the negotiator for the Emergency Response Team called Defendant on his cellular telephone and directed him to exit his apartment. Defendant complied and the police placed him under arrest. The police seized an iPhone located on the ground outside his apartment where Defendant was arrested. On November 4, 2009, the police secured a warrant to search the contents of the iPhone and Detective Andrew Hrenak conducted a forensic examination of the iPhone.

The State charged Defendant with murder in the first degree. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress all

Page 108

evidence seized during the search of his apartment on the grounds that the evidence was obtained pursuant to an unlawful search and seizure. The trial court held a hearing on Defendant's motion. Following the hearing, Defendant and the State filed memoranda in support of and opposition to Defendant's motion. In his memorandum, Defendant asserted that seizure of the iPhone exceeded the scope of the search warrant's parameters and the search warrant was not supported by probable cause. In its memorandum against Defendant's motion, the State asserted that the iPhone was validly seized pursuant to a search incident to arrest and that a " reasonable inference can be inferred ... that there is a probability that evidence of a crime is within the defendant's phone." The trial court denied in part and granted in part the motion to suppress and denied suppression of evidence obtained from the iPhone.

At trial, the State presented the testimony of several witnesses, including Detective Hrenak. Detective Hrenak testified about the results of his search of the iPhone. Defense counsel renewed his motion to suppress the images seized from the iPhone and requested an ongoing objection. The court denied his motion and granted him an ongoing objection. Detective Hrenak identified the State's exhibits 136-153 as images he recovered from the portable network graphic filed in the data partition of the iPhone. The exhibits consisted of screenshots of various website searches conducted on the iPhone. The exhibits captured the following Google searches: " where to buy a trunk," " trunks at Wal-Mart," " food that attracts wil," " attracting wild animals," " what is lime used for," " lime and dead bodies," " lime at Wal-Mart," " where to buy lime in St. Louis," and " how to clean blood from carpet." Additionally, the exhibits showed a blog related to attracting wild animals, a Wikipedia entry containing the words " quick lime," " body disposal," and " decomposition," a search for " what is the best way of covering a dead body?" on Answerbag.com, and a eHow webpage titled " How to clean blood from carpet."

At the end of trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment ...


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