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State v. Chaidez

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

April 5, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
EPIFANIO A. CHAIDEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GREENE COUNTY Honorable Calvin R. Holden, Circuit Judge

          JEFFREY W. BATES, J.

         Epifanio Chaidez (Defendant) was charged via a five-count, amended information with committing the following offenses involving his girlfriend's daughter, T.N. (Victim), over an eight-year period: one count of first-degree statutory sodomy involving a child less than 12 years old (Count 1); first-degree statutory rape (Count 2); two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy involving a child less than 14 years old (Counts 3-4); and one count of second-degree statutory rape (Count 5). See §§ 566.062, 566.032, 566.034.[1] A jury found Defendant guilty on all five counts. He was sentenced to serve four 20-year terms in prison on Counts 1-4, and a seven-year sentence on Count 5, with all of the sentences to run concurrently.

         On appeal, Defendant presents two points for decision. He contends the trial court abused its discretion by: (1) admitting testimony about "late disclosure in victims of sexual abuse" and "sexual abuse accommodation syndrome" because such testimony was "improperly used to bolster [Victim's] credibility"; and (2) allowing the State's late endorsement of the DNA lab co-director, because her "testimony that [Defendant] was almost certainly the father of [Victim's] child was critical evidence against him." Finding no merit in either point, we affirm.

         Defendant does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. "We 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); see also State v. Johns, 34 S.W.3d 93, 103 (Mo. banc 2000). Viewed from that perspective, the following facts were adduced at trial.

         In 2000, when Victim was five years old, she lived with her aunt and uncle in Springfield, Missouri. When Victim was eight, her mother, G.N. (Mother) moved in with the family. A year later when Victim was nine, Mother moved out, taking Victim with her to live in a nearby house. Shortly after that move, Defendant began dating Mother. He also moved into the house. After Defendant began to reside there, Victim was not allowed to go anywhere after school or have friends visit at the house. Victim was no longer allowed to spend the night with her aunt and uncle or any family members; instead she was required to stay at the house with Defendant. From the time he moved into the house until Victim was 16 years old, Defendant and Mother had three children together.

         A few months after Defendant moved into the house, he asked Victim to lie in bed with him while Mother was at work. He put his hands down Victim's pants and rubbed her vagina. Defendant then put his penis on Victim's vagina. Victim did not tell anyone about Defendant's actions because Defendant and Mother were in an abusive relationship and Defendant intimidated Victim, then still nine years old.

         After these first events, Defendant continued touching Victim's vagina with his hands or his penis a couple of times per week. When the family moved into a different house in Springfield, Defendant started touching Victim twice daily. At 11 years of age, Victim briefly resided with her aunt and uncle because Defendant was having an affair with another woman, and Mother had moved to North Carolina. Victim did not tell her aunt or uncle about the abuse because she was still afraid of Defendant, and she did not want her uncle to fight Defendant.

         A few months later, Mother and Victim moved back into a house with Defendant, and he began having sexual intercourse with Victim. Victim was 12 years old the first time Defendant had sex with her. When she was 12 to 14 years of age, Defendant continued having sex with Victim. Defendant also began giving Victim oral sex and forcing Victim to perform oral sex on him. During this time period, Defendant would sometimes have sex with Victim multiple times per day, and Defendant touched Victim's vagina with his hands daily.

         When Victim was 14 years of age, Defendant began ejaculating inside Victim. She became pregnant when she was 16 years of age. Victim told Defendant that she was pregnant. Defendant told Victim to tell Mother that the father was a foreign exchange student so Mother "would never go looking for him." Victim was scared and told no one else she was pregnant. Victim's grandmother (Grandmother) saw Victim when she was six months pregnant and made a comment about Victim's weight. Victim said she was eating too much and did not tell Grandmother that she was pregnant.

         Victim hid her pregnancy until she went into labor. She was afraid people would suspect Defendant was the father because she never went anywhere outside the house. Victim delivered her baby (Son) at the hospital in October 2012, when she was 17 years old. Defendant arrived at the hospital intoxicated and yelled that he wanted to know who the father was because he wanted the father arrested. As Defendant had earlier instructed Victim, she told Mother and Grandmother that the father was a foreign exchange student. When Grandmother had arrived at the hospital, however, she saw Defendant "bent over [Victim] whispering to her, rubbing her stomach." After Grandmother got Defendant to leave, she asked Victim if Defendant was the father, but Victim said "No." Grandmother did not believe that answer, but she stopped asking Victim about it because Mother insisted Grandmother was wrong.

         After Victim came home from the hospital, Defendant tried to have sex with her. She refused. Defendant became angry and began treating Victim differently. During this time, Mother was in prison. Defendant still lived in the house with Victim, her three younger siblings, and Son. In July 2013, Victim moved out of the house after she and Defendant "got into a big fight." Defendant had come home intoxicated. When Victim refused to make dinner, Defendant pulled a knife out of the kitchen drawer and pointed it at her while she was holding Son. Victim ran to the garage and, while holding the door shut against Defendant, she called Grandmother to come get her. Defendant threw Victim's belongings outside, and Grandmother picked up Victim and Son.

         In October 2013, Victim was filling out a Medicaid form and was upset because the form asked for the name of Son's father. Grandmother told her she could get into trouble for lying and she had to tell the truth on the form. Victim began crying and told Grandmother that Defendant was Son's father. Grandmother called the police and reported the abuse.

         Detective Corporal Christina Flood (Det. Flood) with the Springfield Police Department interviewed Victim, who listed all of the locations where she had been sexually abused over the years by Defendant. Following Defendant's arrest, Det. Flood interviewed Defendant. The detective also obtained a buccal swab from him. As part of the investigation, Sergeant Heather Anderson (Sgt. Anderson) took buccal swabs from Victim and Son. All three swabs were tested for DNA. According to the lab co-director, Dr. Karol Elias (Dr. Elias), the results of the DNA tests indicated that Defendant was Son's father.

         At trial, those testifying for the State included Victim, Grandmother, Det. Flood, Sgt. Anderson and Dr. Elias. The State also presented testimony from Micki Lane (Lane), a forensic interviewer and training coordinator for the Child Advocacy Center. She had not met with Victim. Lane testified about the reasons why a child who has ...

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