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State v. Mays

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

July 26, 2016


         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Benton County, Missouri The Honorable Mark B. Pilley, Judge

          Before Alok Ahuja, Presiding Judge, Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, and J. Dale Youngs, Special Judge

          Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge.

         Mr. 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.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Mays 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.

         After 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.

         At 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.

         At 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.

         At "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 been shot."

         Ms. 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.

         The 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.

         Mr. Romdall died from his injuries.

         Later 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 ...

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