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State v. Halverson

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

March 20, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
PATRICIA M. HALVERSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF NEWTON COUNTY Honorable Calvin Holden Judge.

          DON E. BURRELL, JUDGE.

         Patricia M. Halverson ("Defendant") was charged with attempted murder in the first degree and armed criminal action. See sections 565.020 and 571.015. Following a bench trial, the trial court found Defendant guilty of attempted second-degree murder and armed criminal action for shooting her husband ("Victim"). See sections 562.012, 565.021 and 571.015.[1] In three points, Defendant claims the trial court erred in overruling her "motion for verdict of acquittal . . . at the close of all evidence" and finding her guilty of the two offenses because "there was no evidence of a culpable mental state."

         Finding no merit in this claim, we affirm.

         Standard of Review

         "Our review of a trial court's denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal is limited to a determination of whether there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could have found the [d]efendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Curtis, 497 S.W.3d 381, 383 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). In doing so, we "accept[ ] as true all favorable evidence to the State and all favorable inferences that can be drawn from the evidence, and disregard[ ] all contrary evidence and inferences." Id. "The sufficiency of the evidence in a court-tried case is determined by the same standard as in a jury-tried case." State v. Blair, 298 S.W.3d 38, 43 (Mo. App. W.D. 2009). Our following summary of the relevant evidence is presented in accordance with that standard.

         Evidence and Procedural History[2]

         Victim worked as an officer for the McDonald County Sheriff and had been a certified police officer for over thirty years. He had also worked at the fire department. When Victim returned home from work on December 1, 2015, Defendant said, "'You're never going to get me that paper, are you?'" Defendant was referring to a military service form Victim had that Defendant thought might assist her in getting medical treatment for a stroke she had suffered about two months earlier that had left her "not . . . as mobile as she" used to be. Victim told Defendant that he intended to retrieve it the next day from a storage unit.

         Victim took his dog for a walk, then returned home for a nap, as was his usual after-work routine. Defendant was still at home when Victim returned and sat down in the living room to take his nap. Victim had his duty weapon on his person, and Defendant knew that Victim also kept a 9 mm handgun in a bedroom dresser.

         Victim was awakened from his nap by what "felt like a firecracker [going] off in [his] mouth." Victim did not realize that he had actually been shot, but he saw blood running down his shirt. Victim asked Defendant to get a towel, and she "said, 'You are really sweating bad.'" Victim asked Defendant to call 9-1-1. Defendant said that she could not get her phone to work. When Victim told her to use his phone, Defendant said that her phone was working.

         A corporal with the sheriff's department was dispatched to the scene, and he met Defendant on the back deck of the home. Defendant said that Victim "was inside and was bleeding from his mouth and nose." Defendant told the corporal that "she had been outside walking and heard a pop sound and went into the residence to check, and then located [Victim] in the chair bleeding." Defendant said she believed that Victim "had self-inflicted a gunshot and that he had been depressed and had a history of those types of things." The corporal noticed a firearm, and Defendant said "she had taken the firearm and put it on the barbecue grill" on the back deck.

         Inside the house, a deputy noticed a wound to Victim's temple, and a 9 mm shell casing was subsequently recovered from the floor of the living room. The corporal recognized Victim, and he told Victim that he had been shot. An emergency responder, who had worked with Victim at the fire department, also told Victim that he had been shot, and he asked Victim, "'Why?'" Victim replied, "'I didn't do this.'" Victim was transported from the scene to a hospital by helicopter, where he later learned that a bullet had gone in the right side of his head and traveled though his sinus, shattering the left side of his jaw.

         A surgeon who treated Victim opined that, based upon the area around the entrance wound and "stippling[, ]" the gun was not "up against the skin" when Victim was shot. Another treating surgeon determined that the bullet entered Victim's head at the right temple and proceeded at a 45 degree angle down through the roof of the mouth and lodged in the left mandible beneath the lower gum line. Given the injuries observed, the surgeon did not believe that the gunshot wound could have been self-inflicted.

         The day after the shooting, Defendant was interviewed by a detective. Defendant said that she had been outside, and when she went inside, she then heard Victim "gurgling" and "breathing heavy[.]" Defendant did not mention having been alerted to anything when she was still outside the house. She told the detective that Victim was "bleeding out of his mouth and nose." Defendant said she was unable to "get out on her phone." She said that she picked up the gun from the floor beside Victim, put it outside on the barbeque grill, and ...

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