Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Jackson County The Honorable Sandra
Before: Edward R. Ardini, Jr., P.J., and Alok Ahuja and Gary
D. Witt, JJ.
jury trial in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Lonnie
Mitchell was found guilty of property damage in the first
degree, in violation of § 569.100,  and animal abuse,
in violation of § 578.012. The charges stemmed from an
incident in which Mitchell damaged a home that he rented
together with his girlfriend and her four children, as well
as personal property belonging to Girlfriend and her children.
Mitchell appeals, challenging only his conviction for
first-degree property damage. He argues that the circuit
court erred by failing to instruct the jury that it had to
find that Mitchell did not act under a "claim of
right." Because we conclude that Mitchell did not
present sufficient evidence to inject the claim of right
issue into the case, we affirm.
2016, Mitchell and Girlfriend had been in a romantic
relationship for eight years. Girlfriend had four children;
Mitchell was the father of the youngest two.
3, 2016, Girlfriend and Mitchell entered into a Residential
Lease with Option to Purchase Agreement for a house at 5509
Woodland Avenue in Kansas City. The Agreement provided that
Mitchell and Girlfriend would lease the house for a term of
60 months and 28 days, with a monthly rental of $450.00. The
Agreement included an option for Girlfriend and Mitchell to
purchase the house for $34, 900. Girlfriend and Mitchell paid
$750.00 as consideration for the purchase option.
home's lessor had acquired the property in foreclosure,
and it was not in habitable condition at the time Girlfriend
and Mitchell entered into the Lease Agreement. As part of the
Agreement, Girlfriend and Mitchell were required to bring the
house into habitable condition within ninety days of taking
possession. Girlfriend installed plumbing, a hot water
heater, kitchen appliances, and a bathroom sink. Girlfriend
paid for the fixtures and did most of the work installing
them, but Mitchell provided some assistance. After the new
appliances and fixtures were installed and in working order,
Girlfriend and her four children moved into the house. They
brought their personal property into the house, including
clothing, furniture, and televisions and other electronics.
Mitchell also stayed at the house, and maintained some
personal property at the house, although he also had another
morning of June 30, 2016, Mitchell woke Girlfriend and
accused her of cheating on him. After arguing with Mitchell
for thirty minutes, Girlfriend left the house with her
children, and went to her mother's house. While at her
mother's house, Girlfriend received a text message from
Mitchell stating that they "didn't have a
house" and that they had lost the house.
Girlfriend returned to the house later that afternoon, she
found that the front door's locking mechanism was
destroyed. In the front room, the screen of a big-screen
television was smashed, a glass coffee table was shattered,
and a DVD player had been thrown across the room.
Girlfriend's clothes were scattered around the front
room, covered in motor oil.
children's room, the bed was cut open and a DVD player
had been used to smash the screen of a television. The door
to the children's room had been ripped off of its hinges.
In Girlfriend's bedroom the mattress had been shredded,
and a small refrigerator destroyed. Both rooms had gouges in
the walls. The bathroom sink was shattered and the toilet was
ripped out of the floor and broken into pieces.
kitchen, the table and stools had holes in them. The front of
the stove had been broken, along with a coffee maker. In the
basement, the water heater had been punctured and the
plumbing lines cut down. One of the furnace vents had also
been cut. Throughout the house, rocks had been thrown through
twelve double-paned windows.
testified that, up to the date of trial, she had spent
approximately $2, 500 repairing and replacing damaged
2, 2016, a detective interviewed Mitchell. During the
interview, he admitted to damaging the property. He stated
that he and Girlfriend had purchased the house together, and
that the property in the house which he damaged was his.
Before trial Mitchell wrote a letter to the judge, which
similarly claimed that he and Girlfriend were purchasing the
house, and that he was on a mortgage for the house.
was charged with property damage in the first degree and
animal abuse. At trial, Mitchell requested that the jury be
instructed on the property- damage charge that it had to find
that he did not act under the reasonable belief that he had
the right to damage the home and its contents. The court
refused to instruct on the claim of right issue, because