Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division
SEAN M. WILLIAMS, Respondent,
STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF RANDOLPH COUNTY, MISSOURI THE
HONORABLE TERRY A. TSCHANNEN, JUDGE.
Before: Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Presiding Judge, Karen King
Mitchell, Judge and Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge.
R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE.
State appeals the Judgment of the Circuit Court of Randolph
County granting Sean Williams's Rule 29.15 amended motion
for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing.
The judgment is reversed.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
was charged with first-degree assault, kidnapping, forcible
sodomy, forcible rape, and armed criminal action. At his
trial, nine witnesses testified, including the victim and one
of her assailants. The evidence established that the victim
was staying at a hotel with Michael Wright where she
regularly got high on marijuana and methamphetamine with
acquaintances. On February 21, 2012, Wright, the victim,
Williams, and three others were in the hotel room. Everyone
left the room except for Wright and the victim, who was high,
so that Wright could "get [him] some booty."
Williams returned with some syringes and used methamphetamine
with Wright, and the victim ate a capsule of methamphetamine,
smoked marijuana, and took prescription pain
then left the hotel room again. Once Wright and the victim
were alone, the victim began to organize items that she had
brought from her father's home when Wright went
"crazy" and accused the victim of stealing from
him. He put a pillowcase over her head and said that he was
going to kill her. Wright called one of the other
acquaintances, Tracy Stodgell, who could not understand him
and gave the phone to Williams. Wright told Williams to come
back to the hotel before he killed the victim. Williams told
Stodgell that they were going back to the hotel to help
they arrived at the hotel, Stodgell remained in the car while
Williams went inside. After entering the room, Williams
pulled out a knife and put it to the victim's throat.
Williams told the victim not to cause a scene, to do what
they said, and to go out to the car. Wright was standing
nearby and told Williams to make sure that the victim did not
have a phone so that she would be unable to call anybody.
Wright went out to the car, and Williams and the victim
followed with the knife no longer at the victim's throat.
drove with Stodgell in the passenger seat and Williams and
the victim in the back seat. Stodgell immediately started
yelling at the victim and asked why the victim stole from
Wright since he was "the man that supplie[d] [her]
addiction." The victim admitted that she had stolen from
Stodgell as well, and Stodgell told the victim that she
"should beat [her] ass for that." Stodgell and the
victim were both crying. The victim repeatedly apologized,
but Wright was still angry and continued to yell at her.
Williams again placed the knife to the victim's throat
and told her to lean down. Wright told the victim that he was
going to take her to "the basement, " and Williams
informed Wright that he would "quarterback this."
drove them to a basement structure where a house was
apparently going to be built. Wright called another
acquaintance, Patrick Hallback, and told him to come meet
them. After exiting the car, Wright hit the victim, causing
her to fall to the ground. Williams stood the victim up and
directed her to enter the basement structure. After Hallback
arrived, Stodgell and Wright left.
Williams and the victim went inside the basement, where
Williams tied the victim's hands behind her back with
electrical cord. The victim testified that Williams forced
her into a freezer and then closed the lid, placing cinder
blocks on top. The victim could hear people talking and
yelled for someone to let her out. She was allowed out of the
freezer about a minute later when Williams opened the lid.
The victim stood up and saw Hallback standing by the door
told the victim to get out of the freezer and that she would
"get out of this alive" if she did what he said.
Williams then made her have sexual intercourse with him with
her hands still tied. The victim alleged that Williams next
made her lie down on some plywood and perform oral sex on
him, ejaculating onto the plywood. The victim asked Hallback
to help her, but he did not. The victim testified that after
Williams ejaculated, he made her get back inside the freezer
and cinder blocks were again placed on top of it.
Wright retrieved some items, including duct tape, from
Hallback's home and then drove to make a drug deal before
returning to the basement. Stodgell remained with him during
this time, and Wright indicated to Stodgell that he just
wanted to beat the victim and that Stodgell should do it
because she was also a female.
Wright and Stodgell returned, the freezer was opened and the
victim observed Williams, Wright, and Stodgell present.
Stodgell testified that the victim mentioned Stodgell's
daughter's name because their kids were friends and that
the victim appeared "scared to death" and
"terrified." Stodgell punched the victim in the
face two or three times and spit on her. They then closed the
freezer, putting cinder blocks on top of the lid because none
of the participants wanted to stay to watch over her. The
victim eventually "passed out[.]" Williams, Wright,
and Stodgell drove back to the hotel and decided that they
would return to the basement the following day, let the
victim out of the freezer, and "try to make things right
the victim woke the following morning, she was able to untie
her hands and remove a white glove and tape that had been
placed over her mouth. She testified that she attempted to
lift the lid but was unsuccessful until she found something
that she was able to wedge under the lid. Once free, she ran
down the road to a house where a married couple allowed her
to use their phone. The victim called her father, who did not
answer, so the husband of the couple then drove the victim to
her father's home.
attempted to wake Wright around 5:00 or 6:00 a.m., but he
would not wake up until around 10:00 a.m. Once awake, Wright
and Stodgell picked up Williams and went back to the
basement. The cinder blocks were still on the freezer when
they arrived, but the victim was no longer inside.
attempting to retrieve her belongings, the victim talked to
her cousins and was convinced to go to the police. A corporal
from the sheriff's department responded to the Moberly
Police Department and testified that he observed upon his
arrival that the victim had a black eye, some scratch marks,
and bruising on her body. The victim led officers to the
location of the basement, where they observed two deep
freezers along with numerous wood pallets, chairs, bed
frames, cinder blocks, and other items, including a cigarette
lighter, a cigarette, a piece of duct tape, electrical tape,
and a white glove in one of the freezers. The victim did not
initially tell the officers about the alleged sexual acts or
mention the acts in her written statements to the police or
to the nurse or doctor who treated her at the hospital.
However, she eventually told an investigator about the
alleged sexual assault.
voluntarily went to the police department to be interviewed,
and his recorded statement was played at trial. In the
interview, he first denied being at the scene. After being
told that his DNA was at the scene, he admitted that he had
consensual sex with the victim at the hotel room, allegedly
because she owed Wright money from a drug debt. He also
admitted that he and Wright drove the victim to the basement
but claimed she went voluntarily and that they did not
restrain her. Williams stated that Wright and the victim
yelled at each other on the drive to the basement and that,
once they arrived, Wright slapped the victim, tied her up
with a piece of cord, and put her in the freezer. Williams
denied assisting Wright and recounted that he was picked up
by Wright the following morning and went to the basement but
the victim was no longer there.
close of the evidence, Williams moved for judgment of
acquittal, which was overruled by the trial court. The jury
found Williams not guilty of armed criminal action but guilty
on all other counts. Williams's motion for new trial was
overruled and he was sentenced to a total of ninety
years' imprisonment. The convictions were affirmed on
his appeal, Williams filed a timely pro se Rule
29.15 motion. Appointed counsel filed an amended motion
alleging that Williams's trial counsel was ineffective.
The motion courtissued Findings of Fact, Conclusions of