Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BUTLER COUNTY Honorable Michael M.
Pritchett, Circuit Judge
JEFFREY W. BATES, J.
Lee (Defendant) was charged as a prior and persistent
offender with the class A felony of first-degree domestic
assault for knowingly causing serious physical injury to his
girlfriend (Victim) by hitting her with his hand and a metal
broom handle. See § 565.072. Following a jury
trial, Defendant was convicted of that offense and sentenced
to a term of 20 years in prison.
two points contend: (1) the trial court abused its discretion
in admitting evidence of Defendant's "prior
uncharged acts of misconduct related to his physical abuse of
[Victim]"; and (2) the trial court erred by overruling
Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal at the close
of all the evidence because the State failed to prove that
Defendant caused "serious physical injury" to
Victim. Finding no merit to either contention, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
consider the facts and all reasonable inferences derived
therefrom in a light most favorable to the verdict, and we
reject all contrary evidence and inferences." State
v. Campbell, 122 S.W.3d 736, 737 (Mo. App. 2004). Viewed
from that perspective, the following facts were adduced at
2014, Victim was living with her teenage children in a house,
on the outskirts of the nearby town, about a quarter of a
mile away from her stepfather (Stepfather) and mother.
Victim's two children, her son (Son) and her daughter
(Daughter), spent every other week with their father and
summer, Victim met Defendant through an internet chat room.
They exchanged phone numbers and spoke to each other for
about a month. At that point, Defendant surprised Victim by
asking her to pick him up in a nearby city. He said that he
was going to spend the weekend with Victim. She had not known
Defendant was coming or even met Defendant before that
surprise visit. He extended his weekend visit indefinitely,
which Victim recognized was "not normal, " but she
nevertheless allowed Defendant to stay.
first, their relationship was good. It began to change after
a few weeks. Defendant began to verbally abuse Victim by
arguing with her and calling her names. Defendant also began
to control Victim by demanding her phone, asking to whom she
was speaking and refusing to let her leave Defendant's
presence. Little things, like something being moved inside
the house, would trigger him. He would accuse Victim of
cheating on him, then apologize later and say he wouldn't
do it again.
Halloween, Defendant again accused Victim of cheating on him
and trying to leave the room to call somebody else. Defendant
choked Victim and pushed her down, injuring her "tail
bone really bad[.]" This was the first time Defendant
physically abused Victim. Accompanied by Defendant, Victim
went to the doctor. Defendant told Victim that she could not
tell the doctor and staff about Defendant hurting her.
Defendant said Victim "had to tell them something
else." When questioned by the doctor, Victim said she
had slipped on Daughter's skateboard and fallen.
the incident in October, Victim felt like she had to walk
"on eggshells" around Defendant because she did not
know what was going to set him off. He would go into what she
called "episodes, " accusing Victim and demanding
that she tell him the truth. Defendant began to keep
Victim's phone and require her to converse on speaker
phone so Defendant could listen. He also kept Victim's
keys, money and ID. Defendant "barricaded" the
house by covering the windows, pushing the couches up against
the doors and putting a stick or knife in the door to keep it
closed. Victim testified that it was not easy to get away,
and that if Defendant caught her, it would be worse. When
Victim started working in home healthcare, Defendant would
accompany her and stay in the car, keeping her phone. There
was an incident in the car in January that Victim described
as "very bad" without further details. Victim
testified that she was never away from Defendant. When
Victim's children came to stay at the house, Defendant
made sure that Victim covered herself up by wearing long
sleeves. Victim testified that Defendant never hit her on the
face, but "loved to punch" her in her head and ear.
March 5, 2015, Defendant's anger was triggered when he
discovered a bottle of body wash had been moved. Defendant
told Victim that she was going to quit making him look like a
fool and that "tonight was going to be the night."
Victim was unable to calm Defendant down. He started hitting
Victim and punching her on her left side as she curled up on
the couch, trying to protect herself. At first, Defendant hit
Victim with his fists on her head, stomach, thigh and arm.
Defendant then grabbed a metal broomstick and continued
hitting Victim until the broomstick broke in
half. Defendant struck Victim on her arm, and up
and down her thigh with the broomstick. This continued for a
couple of hours while Defendant screamed at Victim, called
her names and paced back and forth. Defendant also grabbed a
curtain rod and struck Victim with that. Finally, Defendant
got on top of Victim and started choking her until Victim
succeeded in kicking Defendant off of her. Defendant then
told Victim to "lay down and go to bed[.]" She did
as she was told.
next day, Son came to the house unexpectedly to pick up a CD.
Victim took the opportunity to whisper to Son to get
Stepfather. After Son left, Defendant confronted Victim about
what she had told Son. At first, Victim denied telling Son
anything. When she saw Defendant "hadn't put that
knife back in the door" however, she "ran like hell
out the door" without bothering to put on any shoes,
even though there was snow on the ground. Victim ran past Son
to Stepfather's house because she was afraid that
Defendant might beat her again more severely.
Victim got to Stepfather's house, she told him he had to
get Defendant out of the house. She neither told Stepfather
about the beating Victim had endured the previous night nor
reported it to law enforcement when they responded to the
scene that day. Victim stayed at Stepfather's house that
following day (March 7, 2015), Stepfather observed some of
the bruising on the part of Victim's arm that was visible
below her short-sleeved shirt. Stepfather asked Victim if
Defendant had hit her. Initially, Victim denied it because
she was scared and ashamed. Ultimately, Victim told
Stepfather everything. She showed Stepfather the bruises, and
he took photographs. There were bruises on Victim's arm,
back, and one the size of a watermelon on her left buttock
and thigh. Stepfather then called the sheriff's
department to report the abuse.
testified that she "couldn't even put jeans on or
hardly sit" as a result of the injuries Defendant had
inflicted. Victim had problems sitting, leaning and standing
up because of the bruises and swelling. She went to the
emergency room on March 7th, which was a Saturday.
It wasn't until "towards the middle of that next
week" that she was able to walk or sit without problems.
The bruising did not go away for weeks. Victim's hearing
was also affected. She experienced ringing in her ear,
testifying that "it was like I was in a barrel[.]"
Victim had a CT scan conducted as a result.
Defendant's case-in-chief, he did not testify. Defense
counsel called the investigating deputy, Julie Dacy, as a
witness. Deputy Dacy testified that she made contact with
Victim after learning of the alleged domestic assault, took
her statement, and observed bruising to her body. The deputy
saw bruising on the back of Victim's shoulder, down her
arm, and up her thigh. Deputy Dacy described the bruising as
"pretty severe, " and opined, "Honestly, I
don't understand how she could have sat with the bruising
as bad as it was." Deputy Dacy also testified that