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State v. Moreland

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

April 28, 2015

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
JEFFREY DEAN MORELAND, Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri. The Honorable R. Michael Wagner, Judge.

For Respondent: Chris Koster, Attorney General, Shaun J. Mackelprang, Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, MO.

For Appellant: Ellen H. Flottman, Assistant Public Defender, Columbia, MO.

Before Division III: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge, and Gary D. Witt and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges. Gary D. Witt and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judges, concur.

OPINION

Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge

Page 485

Jeffrey D. Moreland (" Moreland" ) appeals the Judgment of the Circuit Court of Cass County, Missouri (" trial court" ), finding him guilty, following a jury trial, of murder in the first degree and armed criminal action. Moreland asserts that the trial court erred in admitting testimony that he was " a person of interest" in another case and in admitting evidence about other guns he owned. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History[1]

J.R. (" Husband" ) and his wife (" Victim" )[2] lived in Harrisonville, Missouri, with their son. On November 5, 2008, when Husband came home from work at about 5:30, he found Victim face down in the bathtub in bloody water. She was not breathing. Husband grabbed Victim and turned her over, and then he called 911.

Officers from the Harrisonville Police Department responded and found a nude female in her early thirties, who appeared to be deceased, lying in a twisted fashion in the bathtub in six to eight inches of pinkish tinged water. The water was running; there were large blood spots in the bathtub and blood above Victim's head in the curvature of the bathtub. Only the hot water had been turned on, but only cold water had been running out; so the officers concluded that the hot water had been running for awhile. There was no towel or clothing in the bathroom. There was a locked zip tie that had been cut that was in close proximity to the bathtub, and outside the bathroom in the hallway area was another engaged or locked zip tie that had been cut. In the master bedroom, all of the bedding had been taken off the bed and laid on the floor. No fitted or flat sheet was found with the bedding. A used roll of duct tape was under the footboard of the bed. A palm print was found on the edge of the sink in the master bathroom.

Page 486

Other fingerprints were collected throughout the house. An R-P Luger 9mm shell casing was found underneath Victim's body. Also under the body was a copper jacket fragment from a bullet. Partial palm prints were found near the bottom of the bathtub rim on the right side. There was also a clump of hair on the wall of the bathtub near Victim. There was apparent blood in the bathtub, on the rim of the bathtub, on the left side of the toilet, on the threshold of the bathroom door, and on the exterior side of the bathroom door.

An autopsy was performed on Victim's body on November 6. Bullet fragments were recovered from Victim's left leg. Victim had been shot in the back of the head. The entry wound was between and behind the left ear and the back midline of the head, and the exit wound was on the left cheek. The bullet caused extensive damage through the bones and the brain along the left side of the head. The bullet caused a reentry wound in Victim's left thigh, but there was no exit wound associated with the reentry wound. Victim also had an abrasion on her right breast; bruises on the palm, right thumb, and right forearm; two bruises on the left forearm; and bruises on her legs and buttocks. There was a white creamy fluid in Victim's vaginal cavity. Based on the location of the wounds, it appeared that Victim was shot in the back of the head while in the fetal position, and the bullet exited her cheek and entered her left thigh. The gunshot wound was fatal. Blood samples, hairs, vaginal swabs and smears, and swabs and smears of other body parts were taken during Victim's autopsy.

The Kansas City Police Department Crime Laboratory examined the evidence from Victim's autopsy and observed sperm within the vaginal smear. DNA testing revealed the male portion of the DNA was a mixture of two individuals, less DNA from Husband and more DNA from an unknown individual, which was consistent with the unknown male having had sexual intercourse more recently with Victim than Husband. The DNA from the zip ties was consistent with that of Victim and the unknown male. The unknown male's genetic profile also matched the partial profile from the duct tape. The police collected DNA samples from sixty-one people, but none of them matched the genetic profile of the unknown male.

Fourteen to eighteen months after Victim's death, leads were going cold. In June 2011, Detective Blank with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department and another detective went to Harrisonville to talk to Moreland, " a person of interest" in a different case Detective Blank was working on in Kansas City, and to obtain a DNA sample from Moreland. They told Moreland that they needed a DNA sample, but Moreland said he was busy that day. Thereafter, Moreland obtained a sample of his daughter's fiancé 's blood from a finger prick and a cheek swab with a Q-tip and placed them in a prescription container.

Moreland contacted a sergeant with the Grandview, Missouri, Police Department, and asked him to meet at a QuikTrip. Moreland had worked with the sergeant when Moreland was a patrolman on the Grandview police force. They parked next to each other, and Moreland said, " Watch this." He swabbed the inside of his cheek, put the swab below the officer's line of sight, and held up a plastic pill bottle with the swab inside. Moreland then pricked his finger, wiped it with a cotton swab, put it below the officer's line of sight, and held up a pill bottle with swabs inside. He gave the pill bottles to the officer and told him that he could give the bottles to the Kansas City Police Department when he was contacted.

Page 487

After this meeting, Moreland called Detective Blank and told him that he had provided a DNA sample to a Grandview police sergeant. Detective Blank and another detective drove to Grandview and talked with the sergeant, but told him that they needed to get a sample from Moreland directly. A few days later, Moreland called Detective Blank and told him he was going to Iowa to be with his sick father and that he would get with the detective about providing a DNA sample when he returned.

Thereafter, Detective Blank retrieved the bottle from the Grandview Police Department so it could be tested by the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department Crime Laboratory. During the detective's investigation, he talked to Moreland's ex-wife, and she told him that the DNA that had been given to the Grandview Police Department had been taken from her daughter's fiancé . A DNA sample was taken from the fiancé , and subsequent testing indicated that it matched the DNA in the samples Moreland had given the Grandview police sergeant.

Detective Blank and other officers located Moreland in Iowa and went there to obtain a DNA sample from him. Moreland was in the hospital, after apparently attempting suicide. The officers took possession of a Glock 45 semi-automatic handgun that had a magazine with twelve unspent rounds. They arrested Moreland, obtained a search warrant, and took a DNA sample from him at the jail. When he was booked, his fingerprints were taken. The officers returned to Iowa and obtained a search warrant to search the residence of Moreland's father. The officers seized a Browning 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Moreland had previously owned a 9mm Smith and Wesson, which was the kind of firearm that fired the bullet fragment recovered from the scene. Moreland's father brought out a small cardboard box containing four or five handguns, none of which were 9mm.

Officers searched Moreland's house in Harrisonville and discovered a bag of zip ties in the basement that were essentially indistinguishable from the ones found at the crime scene. An examination of the roll of duct tape found at the foot of Victim's bed revealed a latent print on the adhesive side of the duct tape, which was identified as Moreland's right index finger.

A forensic specialist in the Kansas City Police Department Crime Laboratory performed a DNA analysis on items of evidence that were recovered in the investigation of Victim's death.

DNA testing of the vaginal swab revealed that the profile of the unknown male's DNA and Moreland's DNA matched. The random match probability was one in one quadrillion unrelated individuals. Moreland was the major source of semen from Victim's vaginal swab, which would be consistent with him having had sexual intercourse with Victim more recently than Husband.

On the zip tie found in the hallway, the major profile was consistent with Victim, and the minor profile was consistent with the unknown male. Moreland was included as a possible contributor to the partial minor profile. The uniqueness of that minor profile was one in 570 unrelated individuals. On an interior loop of the zip tie that was found in the bathroom, a partially discerned profile matched Victim and the other profile matched Moreland. The frequency of potential contributors to that mixture of DNA was one in 100 million unrelated individuals. On the exterior loop of that same zip tie, one profile matched Victim and the other profile matched Moreland, and the expected frequency of contributors to that mixture was one in 47 million unrelated individuals.

Page 488

Moreland was also a possible contributor to the DNA found on the duct tape, and the random match probability or the frequency or uniqueness of this profile was one in four unrelated individuals. Moreland was a possible contributor to the DNA profile developed from the DNA on the fingerprint swab, and the ...


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