Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of Benton County, Missouri The
Honorable Mark B. Pilley, Judge
Alok Ahuja, Presiding Judge, Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge,
and J. Dale Youngs, Special Judge
D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge.
Lonnie Mays ("Mays") appeals the judgment of the
Circuit Court of Benton County, Missouri ("trial
court"), convicting him, after a jury trial, of one
count of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal
action. On appeal, Mays claims that the trial court erred in
refusing to exclude the testimony of a witness due to the
clergy-communicant privilege and in refusing to suppress
evidence found in his vehicle that he claims was obtained in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. We affirm.
and Procedural Background
and his wife lived in a retirement community called Sky
Village, which is located near the junction of the Henry and
Benton County lines. On the morning of March 26, 2012,
Carolyn Simmons, who lived across the street from Mays, was
putting her trash out when Mays, began "holler[ing] some
things" at her; he appeared to be "a little
irate." Ms. Simmons ignored Mays and went on to the
house of another neighbor, Jeannie Fair, for coffee. Ms. Fair
lived two houses down from Ms. Simmons. Also joining the
coffee group was Rudy Romdall, who had had numerous run-ins
with Mays over the years.
coffee, Mr. Romdall followed Ms. Simmons back to her house in
his gray pickup truck, because Mr. Romdall was going to
accompany Ms. Simmons, who was head of the Sky Village
community association, to meet a man delivering gravel for
the community's streets. As they were leaving Ms.
Simmons's house, Mays was in the middle of the street
yelling at them, so Ms. Simmons told Mr. Romdall to exit the
neighborhood in the direction opposite Mays. They did, but
Mays followed them in his own black pickup truck. Ms. Simmons
and Mr. Romdall parked just outside of the Sky Village
community to wait for the gravel delivery person, and Mays
stopped his truck in front of them on the road, got out of
his truck, and started yelling, knocking on Mr. Romdall's
truck window, and gesturing for Mr. Romdall to roll down his
window. Ms. Simmons asked Mr. Romdall to ignore Mays because
she was afraid. They ignored Mays, and he got back into his
truck and drove away. Several minutes later, Mays again drove
by Mr. Romdall and Ms. Simmons, gave them a dirty look, and
drove away. Ms. Simmons did not see Mays again that day.
After finishing with the gravel delivery person, Ms. Simmons
and Mr. Romdall returned to the Sky Village community where
one neighbor had called the police to tell them about
Mays's behavior. The police came out to speak to them,
and then went to the Mays house to speak to Mays.
around 11:20 a.m., video footage from a Wal-Mart store nearby
shows Mays purchasing "Winchester Super X Power Point
.30-30 caliber ammunition." Mays had recently borrowed a
.30-30 rifle from his brother, Donald Mays
("Donald"); at the time, Mays told Donald that he
was borrowing the rifle for target practice.
around 12:30 p.m. on March 26, 2012, Jared Lawler, a farmer
in Henry County, noticed a field off of Highway 7 had an open
gate that was always supposed to be closed, so he stopped to
close it. Mr. Lawler noticed a black Ford Ranger pickup in an
adjoining field, so he "knew someone was in there."
No one was inside the truck, so Mr. Lawler "walked
around the truck, wrote the license number down, and kind of
hung around there for a little bit to see if [he] could see
anybody in there hunting." When Mr. Lawler was about to
leave, he "saw a gentleman in the tree line along 7
Highway." The man (later determined by Mr. Lawler to be
Mays) emerged from the tree line, and they "walked
together back to the truck." Mr. Lawler described the
man as "an older gentleman, had glasses, had a hat on
that said . . . something about being a veteran, " and
he was wearing "a kind of plaid looking shirt, jeans,
" carrying a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 rifle. Mr.
Lawler asked the man what he was doing, and the man said he
had unsuccessfully been trying to shoot a coyote. Mr. Lawler
introduced himself to the man, and they shook hands. Mr.
Lawler said the man left and turned east toward Highway 7.
Mr. Lawler did not remember the man's name, but
identified him as Mays at trial. Mr. Lawler said the field
was located "five to six" miles from County Line
Road, which is adjacent to Sky Village.
"a little before 1 p.m., " Jean Bonrud and her
friend, Vicki Schmidt, were at Ms. Bonrud's Sky Village
house. Ms. Bonrud, a nurse, knew Mays but did not know Mr.
Romdall. Ms. Bonrud saw a "black small pickup"
truck traveling east on Highway 7 by her house and assumed
that it was Mays on his way home. Shortly thereafter, the
women heard two gunshots close in time. Looking out the
window, Ms. Schmidt saw two pickup trucks: a gray one facing
north and a black one facing south. She saw the black pickup
leave and go south "over a little knoll." The women
then saw the black pickup coming back north "at a high
speed." After the black pickup left, another man she did
not recognize pulled up behind the gray truck, "got out
and went up to the pickup and yelled that . . . Rudy's
Bonrud walked out to see if she could help. She noticed a
bullet hole in the side of the truck's door and saw what
proved to be Mr. Romdall "slumped over to the side"
in his seat. His driver's side window was rolled down,
and a cell phone was open in Mr. Romdall's hand on his
leg. The man's wife called 9-1-1 and handed the phone to
Ms. Bonrud. Ms. Bonrud told the 9-1-1 dispatcher that Mr.
Romdall was non-responsive. She took Mr. Romdall's pulse
and noticed he was gasping for breath. He had a hole in his
left side with blood streaming out.
other man on the scene was Ronald Ferguson, a Sky Village
neighbor. He had seen Mr. Romdall at around 11:45 a.m.
earlier in the day when Mr. Romdall stopped by to see Mr.
Ferguson's mother. Later, when he and his family were on
their way out of town, he saw Mr. Romdall's truck stopped
at the intersection near the edge of the neighborhood. He
pulled up behind Mr. Romdall's truck, but after waiting
for a while, he pulled up to the side of Mr. Romdall's
truck. He noticed a bullet hole by the door handle, so he got
out of his car and went to the driver's side of the
truck. Mr. Ferguson saw Mr. Romdall slumped over with his
cell phone in his hand and his dog next to him. Mr. Ferguson
could not feel Mr. Romdall's pulse, and he saw lots of
blood. He put Mr. Romdall's truck in park and told his
wife to call 9-1-1. Mr. Ferguson did not see any handguns
inside the truck's interior.
Romdall died from his injuries.
that afternoon, Mays pulled up to the home of Joseph Rhodes,
a retired Pentacostal minister. Mr. Rhodes was mowing his
grass, but shut the mower off when Mays drove up and exited
his truck. Mays, who had never met Rhodes before, asked
Rhodes if he was a minister; Mr. Rhodes responded that he
was, but was retired. Mays then asked Mr. Rhodes if he was a
veteran, and Mr. Rhodes responded that he was. Mays then told
Mr. Rhodes that he thought he had killed someone by shooting
him with a .30-30 rifle in the chest. Mr. Rhodes agreed that
such a gun shot with that weapon would have killed the other
person. The two walked up to Mr. Rhodes's porch and Mays
told Mr. Rhodes that he and the other man had had troubles
for some time, and that the man had been "bugging the
fire out of him." Mays subsequently asked to make a
phone call with Mr. Rhodes's ...