Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of Johnson County, Missouri The
Honorable R. Michael Wagner, Judge.
Before: Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Gary D. Witt,
Judge and Zel M. Fischer, Special Judge.
D. WITT, JUDGE.
M. Scroggs ("Scroggs") appeals from her convictions
following a jury trial before the Circuit Court of Johnson
County for one count of class A felony murder in the second
degree, section 565.021,  one count of endangering the welfare of
a child, section 568.045, and one count of abandonment of a
corpse, section 194.425. The charges arise out of the death,
shortly after birth, of Scroggs's newborn son. Scroggs
raises three points on appeal arguing that there was
insufficient evidence to convict her of endangering the
welfare of a child (Point One) and murder in the second
degree (Point Two), and that the trial court erred in
excluding certain evidence at trial (Point Three). We affirm.
2013, Scroggs and her husband Matthew Scroggs
("Matthew") were living in Pleasant Hill, Missouri
with their three children. During the summer, Matthew's
mother, Melinda Brown ("Brown") was caring for the
children at her home a couple hours away from Pleasant Hill.
In early June of 2013, Brown took the three children to visit
Pleasant Hill. Brown noticed that Scroggs appeared to be
pregnant. She returned again in July and noticed that
Scroggs's breasts were enlarged, she had gained weight in
her stomach, and her nose was red. This was consistent with
how Scroggs looked during her previous pregnancies. Brown
asked Scroggs whether she was pregnant, and Scroggs angrily
denied it multiple times.
children were returned by Brown to Scroggs and Matthew in
August. Brown received a call from Matthew on November 4,
2013, requesting that Brown come to his home. When Brown
arrived, Matthew looked like he had not slept and was
exhausted, as if he were "crashing." His mood
vacillated between sadness and anger. The three children were
not at home. Matthew first patted Brown down, as if he were
searching for something, and then forced Brown to hand over
her keys and cell phone because he wanted to tell her
something but did not want her to leave. Matthew informed
Brown that Scroggs had delivered a baby at home and was in
the hospital. Brown asked where the baby was, and Matthew
responded, saying, "[a]ll you need to know is that we
took care of it." Matthew also told Brown that there was
a stolen car between their garage and a fence.
spoke with law enforcement and told them a stolen car was
located on the property, which she had seen the day before,
and relayed the information she had received from Matthew
about the baby. She informed police that she believed Scroggs
and Matthew had disposed of the baby's body and that they
both deal in drugs.
police arrived, Matthew was placed under arrest and gave his
consent for a search of the residence. Police found four
glass pipes used for smoking methamphetamine that had white
residue on them. An additional thirty unused glass pipes were
located in the upstairs of the home along with bags
containing marijuana, methamphetamine residue, and additional
discovered a blue bucket in the garage filled with what
appeared to be recently poured concrete. Matthew later
admitted that the baby's body was in the bucket and gave
permission to police to remove it. The bucket was taken to
the medical examiner, who removed and examined the contents.
The baby was located in the concrete inside a cardboard box
for baby wipes and inside a plastic bag that also contained
pacifiers, a bottle, a bib, a baby bottle brush, and formula.
An additional plastic bag was also in the bucket containing
the placenta wrapped in a towel. At the bottom of the bucket
was a truck brake rotor.
was interviewed twice while in the hospital. She had been
admitted for pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Police
asked her if she was aware she had given birth to a baby boy
on October 7. Scroggs hesitated and stated the birth had
taken place a few days after that. Scroggs had learned that
she was pregnant in June but she did not want any more
children. Scroggs did not obtain any prenatal care or seek
any medical treatment during her pregnancy. Although her
previous three children had been born in a hospital, she said
that she "wanted to do it like they did back in the
day." She did not obtain a midwife to help with the
birth, and she and Mathew had not told anyone about the
pregnancy, not even their children. Scroggs admitted to
police that she used methamphetamine and marijuana throughout
her pregnancy. She told a Children's Division
investigator that she had only used methamphetamine prior to
the pregnancy but when told that hair follicle tests would be
able to determine whether that was true, she said they would
probably find methamphetamine in her system and that she
could not remember the last time she had used it.
claimed the baby was born somewhere between five and seven
months into the pregnancy and that after he was born the baby
looked fine. She claimed that she called a doctor after the
birth, whom she picked out of a phone book, and the doctor
told her that as long as there was not excess bleeding,
everything was okay and there was nothing else she could do.
Scroggs did not remember who this doctor was and could not
provide any information regarding the doctor's identity.
stated that after the birth the baby would not breast feed or
take a bottle. She told police that she thought he would
eventually eat, so she went to sleep. Scroggs stated that
when she woke up, the baby was "gone, " as in
deceased. She also stated that she had heard him make a
whimpering sound before he died. After she woke up and found
the baby dead, she put the child in a box and gave it to
Matthew and told him to "bury it in the backyard."
However, Scroggs also told a detective, after she got out of
the hospital, that she knew the baby was in the garage and
said she told Matthew not to bury him yet because she wanted
to wait until she was healthy enough to help bury the baby.
autopsy was performed on the baby that determined he was born
alive and appeared to be full term. There were no signs of
injury or congenital abnormalities. The baby had a
methamphetamine level in his system of 751 ng/mL. Scroggs had
to have used methamphetamines a few days prior to the birth
in order for the baby to have this level of methamphetamines
in his system at birth. This level of methamphetamine would
have created stress, increased heart rate, and increased
blood pressure in the baby. This would have created a risk of
heart attack, seizure, stroke, or arrhythmia, which could
have caused sudden death. The baby's cause of death was
"methamphetamine intoxication due to maternal
methamphetamine use." Had the baby been taken to the
hospital, he could have been diagnosed and treated, as there
are interventions that could have increased his likelihood of
survival. A medical expert testified that the failure to seek
medical treatment contributed to the baby's death.
was found guilty after a jury trial on all three counts. The
court sentenced Scroggs to concurrent terms of life for
second-degree murder, seven years for endangering the welfare
of a child, and four years for abandonment of a corpse.
Scroggs now appeals.
Point One, Scroggs argues the trial court erred in overruling
her motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of all the
evidence and imposing judgment and sentence against her for
murder in the second degree and endangering the welfare of a
child because the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that she knew or should have known that by
failing to obtain medical care for her baby, she was creating
substantial risk to the life, body, and health of her baby.
An appellate court's review of the sufficiency of the
evidence to support a criminal conviction is limited to
determining whether there is sufficient evidence from which a
reasonable juror could have found the defendant guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt. State v. Chaney, 967 S.W.2d 47,
52 (Mo. banc 1998) [(citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U.S. 307, 319 (1979)).] All evidence and inferences favorable
to the State are accepted as true, and all ...