Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of Vernon County, Missouri, The
Honorable Dean G. Dankelson, Judge.
Before: Gary D. Witt, Presiding Judge, Lisa White Hardwick,
Judge and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge.
D. WITT, JUDGE.
appeals the entry of a full order of protection under the
Missouri Adult Abuse Act (455.005 et. seq.) entered against
him in favor of L.M.D. For the reasons explained below, we
1996, D.W.D. entered an Alford plea to a felony charge of
statutory rape involving L.M.D.'s daughter. Since that
time until around June 6, 2017, the parties had no contact.
On or around June 6, 2017, L.M.D. became lost and turned
around in D.W.D.'s driveway, at which time D.W.D. flipped
her off. On June 8, 2017, L.M.D. was at a local restaurant
with a friend. D.W.D. entered the restaurant with his minor
son and approached L.M.D. D.W.D. told her to never pull into
his driveway again and L.M.D. told him never to flip her off
again. D.W.D. responded not to worry because next time he
would blow her head off.
9, 2017, L.M.D. filed a petition for an ex parte order of
protection in Vernon County Circuit Court under section
455.020, which was granted. A hearing regarding a Full Order
of Protection was held on June 16, 2017. On June 19, 2017,
the trial court granted L.M.D. a full order of protection
against D.W.D. This appeal followed.
"The appellate court will sustain the trial court's
order unless it is not supported by substantial evidence, it
is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously
declares or applies the laws." Wallace v. Van
Pelt, 969 S.W.2d 380, 382 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998). This
court gives deference to the circuit court's findings of
credibility, and only considers those facts and reasonable
inferences therefrom supporting the decision. Id. at
383. "Because the trial judge is in the best position to
gauge the credibility of the witnesses, in cases under the
Adult Abuse Act, the discretion of the trial court should not
often be superseded." Id.
C.L. v. Hartl, 495 S.W.3d 241, 243 (Mo. App. W.D.
raises one point on appeal. In his sole point on appeal,
D.W.D. argues that the trial court erred in issuing a full
order of protection in favor of L.M.D. because L.M.D. failed
to prove that she was stalked as defined under section
455.010(14). D.W.D. argues that L.M.D. provided no evidence
that D.W.D. engaged in an unwanted course of conduct because
D.W.D. only initiated one unwanted contact with L.M.D., which
is insufficient to establish a course of conduct as defined
under section 455.010(14)(b).
adult who has been subject to domestic violence by a present
or former adult family or household member, or who has been
the victim of stalking, may seek relief under section 455.010
to 455.085 by filing a verified petition alleging such
domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault by the
respondent." Section 455.020. "As such, a full
adult protection order may be entered only upon proof that
the petitioner was: (1) subjected to abuse by a present or
former adult family or household member or (2) subjected to
stalking." H.K.R. v. Stemmons, 295 S.W.3d 220,
223 (Mo. App. W.D. 2009).
Because there is real harm that can result in abusing the
Adult Abuse Act and its provisions, including the stigma that
may attach to a respondent who is ultimately labeled a
'stalker, ' trial courts must exercise great care to
ensure that sufficient evidence exists to support all