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State v. Bruce

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

December 15, 2016

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
JASON RUBIN BRUCE, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PHELPS COUNTY Honorable William E. Hickle, Judge.

         AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

          WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., J.

         Jason Rubin Bruce ("Bruce"), appeals the judgment of the trial court following his convictions for the unclassified felony of first-degree rape, two unclassified felonies of first-degree sodomy, the class B felony of first-degree burglary, and the class C felony of felonious restraint. Bruce challenges the judgment of the trial court in two points on appeal. Finding no merit to Bruce's first point, but finding merit to Bruce's second point, we modify and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Bruce does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and we recite only those facts necessary to review his points on appeal. We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the judgment, accepting as true all facts and inferences favorable to the judgment, and disregarding evidence and inferences to the contrary. State v. Burks, 373 S.W.3d 1, 4 (Mo.App. S.D. 2012). The evidence adduced at trial is recited in accordance with these principles.

         On November 7, 2014, Bruce surreptitiously entered Victim's residence while Victim was taking a shower. Bruce tied up Victim with shoestrings, then sexually assaulted her. Bruce untied Victim and forced her to sign-off of a computer video-chat that, unbeknownst to Bruce, had been running with Victim's boyfriend. After Victim complied, Bruce tied her up again, put her in a closet, and ransacked Victim's home. Victim asked what Bruce was looking for. When Bruce said he was looking for Victim's car keys, Victim offered to help find them. Bruce untied Victim and they both unsuccessfully searched for the keys. Bruce again tied Victim up, shoving clothing in her mouth so she could not speak, and shut her in a closet and then a bathroom. Eventually, Bruce untied Victim. He said that if she told anyone what he had done, he would kill her. Then Bruce left.

         The authorities were notified, and Victim identified Bruce as her attacker. Sergeant Frank Hawkins ("Sgt. Hawkins") responded to the scene. After speaking with Victim, Sgt. Hawkins went across the street to Bruce's home, where he found Bruce sitting on the hood of his car. Bruce claimed he did not know Victim, but said he would be willing to talk to a detective at the police station, and that he would drive himself there.

         At the police station, Detective Adam Meyer ("Detective Meyer") met Bruce when he arrived. Detective Meyer introduced himself, and asked if Bruce would accompany him back to an interview room, which Bruce agreed to do. Bruce initially denied that he had ever spoken with Victim, and also denied having ever engaged in sexual conduct with Victim.

         After Detective Meyer asked Bruce about whether his DNA or hair might be at Victim's home, Bruce admitted to meeting Victim. He suggested they had met when Victim was walking her dog, and that the two had engaged in "some type of sexual relations" in Victim's apartment. Detective Meyer asked Bruce why he had not been truthful from the beginning, and Bruce said he did not want his wife to find out what he had done with Victim. Detective Meyer indicated that he would not tell Bruce's wife. Bruce then gave a more detailed account of, by Bruce's account, consensual sexual acts he and Victim engaged in at Victim's apartment. These acts, Bruce alleged, did not include vaginal sex or oral sex.

         Detective Meyer and Bruce took a break so that Detective Meyer could get some water and Bruce could smoke a cigarette. Detective Meyer went outside with Bruce while he smoked, and then the two returned to the interview room. Bruce told Detective Meyer that he wanted to leave. Detective Meyer told Bruce that he could not leave, placed him under arrest, and read him his Miranda[1] rights. Bruce said he understood his rights, and agreed to speak further with Detective Meyer. He indicated that he was at Victim's house in the late evening a few days before the assault, but denied going to Victim's house on the day of the assault.

         Forensic evidence showed that Victim's DNA was found on Bruce's boxer shorts the day he was interviewed, and that Bruce's DNA was on Victim's body the day of the assault.

         After the close of evidence, instructions, and argument by counsel, the jury found Bruce guilty of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy, first-degree burglary, and felonious restraint. Having found Bruce to be a prior offender, the trial court sentenced Bruce to three life sentences on each of the rape and sodomy counts, fifteen years on the burglary count, ...


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