Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
Christopher E. McGraugh
S. ODENWALD, PRESIDING JUDGE
Suttles ("Suttles") appeals from the judgment of
the trial court, entered after a jury convicted her of
furnishing pornographic materials to a minor and first-degree
statutory sodomy. On appeal, Suttles challenges the testimony
of two witnesses regarding delayed disclosures of
sexual-abuse incidents (Points One and Two) and the trial
court's exclusion of certain testimony of the
victim's hallucinations (Point Three). Because both
witnesses were qualified and their testimony concerning
delayed disclosures was generalized, relevant, and reliable,
the trial court did not err in allowing their testimony.
Because the evidence of the victim's hallucinations
proffered by Suttles during her offer of proof was cumulative
and unfairly prejudicial, we find no error in the trial
court's exclusion of such evidence. Accordingly, we
affirm the trial court's judgment.
and Procedural History
the facts of this case in the light most favorable to the
verdict. State v. Forrest, 183 S.W.3d 218, 223 (Mo.
banc 2006) (internal citation omitted). We address only the
facts relevant to Suttles's points on appeal.
knew Suttles as the daughter-in-law of his grandmother's
friend. J.J. spent time with Suttles and her husband when
J.J. was young. Specifically, J.J. occasionally spent the
night at Suttles's home when J.J.'s mother worked.
Suttles lived with her husband and her in-laws. J.J.'s
grandmother was often present when J.J. was at the
J.J. was approximately six-years old, he was alone in the
Suttleses' family basement with Suttles and her husband.
After J.J. had already been in the basement for a time,
Suttles and her husband began having sex while J.J. watched.
While having sex with her husband, Suttles forced J.J. to
"play with her breasts and suck on her breasts."
Suttles then told J.J. to remove his pants and placed
J.J.'s penis in her mouth. J.J. did not speak of this
incident until he was ten years old, at which time he told
his mother that he was sexually assaulted without providing
years later, in 2017, J.J. attempted suicide. During this
time and since he was twelve-years old, J.J. had experienced
suicidal thoughts and hallucinations. On the way home from
the hospital, J.J. told his mother about the incident with
Suttles and her husband. J.J. subsequently reported the
incident to the police.
State then charged Suttles with one count of furnishing
pornographic materials to a minor and one count of statutory
sodomy in the first degree. The case proceeded to a jury
Anthony Harper's Testimony
pre-trial proceedings, Suttles sought to exclude the
testimony of Anthony Harper ("Harper"), a
forensic-interviewer for the Children's Advocacy Center.
Suttles maintained that Harper's testimony was
particularized and failed to meet the
Daubert test for admissibility of evidence. The
trial court labeled Harper's anticipated testimony as
generalized, but deferred any admissibility determination
until hearing the testimony at trial.
voir dire, the State conducted an offer of proof regarding
Harper's testimony. Harper testified that during his work
as a forensic interviewer, he conducted 863 child interviews.
Further, Harper spoke at length about his experiences with
children disclosing incidents of abuse:
I've interviewed kids who have provided what I would
refer to as a tentative disclosure where they provided some
information. I've experienced children who have provided
some accounts of what happened, and the person who was
alleged to have committed those acts has admitted to more
than what the child told me.
I've had kids that provided a complete account of
what's happening to them as best as their abilities
afforded them, and there's been some rare instances where
a child has taken back what they've said during an
trial court ruled that Harper's testimony was admissible
before the jury. The trial court determined that Harper was a
qualified expert and that his proffered testimony met the
Daubert standard for admissibility.
trial, Harper testified regarding his work as a forensic
interviewer and his expertise and skills regarding child
interviews. Harper interviewed J.J. when J.J. was
approximately fifteen years old. Harper discussed generally
his interview style with children and his ability to filter
out suggestibility among children and look past
inconsistencies in children's narratives. The State asked
Harper about the different types of disclosures by children
who have been abused. Suttles objected, arguing that Harper
lacked the level of expertise necessary to permit him to
testify about different types of disclosures. The trial court
overruled Suttles's objection. Harper testified that
delayed disclosures of child-abuse victims are not uncommon
or unusual. Harper discussed, in detail, the various types of
disclosures made by child-victims in cases of sexual abuse,
including delayed disclosures.
cross-examination by Suttles, Harper testified that he did
not know the exact number of interviews he had conducted on
children of various age groups. Harper emphasized that every
situation is different regarding both the child's
disclosure and the interviewer's ability to assess the
veracity of the child's statements.
Det. Kelli Swinton's Testimony
trial, the State called Kelli Swinton ("Det.
Swinton"), a St. Louis City police detective, to testify
regarding her investigation of J.J.'s case. While working
in the child-abuse unit, Det. Swinton received several
trainings, including ChildFirst-which teaches general
techniques for investigating crimes involving children and
the process of child disclosures-a week-long training
regarding victims of child abuse, and child-family training.
Det. Swinton was assigned to J.J.'s case after the
incident was reported through the police department hotline.
Although Det. Swinton investigated Suttles and acted as the
arresting officer, she did not interview J.J. personally.
State questioned Det. Swinton regarding the occurrence of
delayed disclosures in child-abuse cases, given her four
years of experience in the child-abuse unit and her work on
approximately one hundred cases per year-the majority of
which involved sexual abuse. Suttles objected to this line of
questioning, arguing that any testimony from Det. Swinton
about delayed disclosures was irrelevant, speculative, and
invaded the province of the jury. After a discussion and the
State laying further foundation for Det. Swinton's
delayed-disclosures testimony, the trial court overruled
Suttles's objection. Det. Swinton then testified that she
typically handled more sexual-abuse cases than other
child-victim cases. Det. Swinton further testified that,
based upon her experience, it is very common for
child-victims of sexual abuse to delay disclosing the abuse.
Det. Swinton testified that over ninety percent of
disclosures by child-victims of sexual abuse were delayed
cross-examined Det. Swinton regarding her experience with
delayed disclosures. In response to Suttles's questions,
Det. Swinton could not provide specific statistics regarding
the number of her child-abuse cases that involved a delayed
disclosure after the sexual assault.
pre-trial proceedings, the State moved to limit evidence
relating to J.J.'s adjudication proceeding in juvenile
court. Specifically, the State sought to exclude specific
evidence of J.J.'s adjudication, including the charges,
class of the offense, sentence, and punishment. Suttles,
however, sought leave of the trial court to allow questioning
concerning J.J.'s juvenile history and the connection of
that juvenile history to J.J.'s hallucinations. The trial
court prohibited the introduction of evidence relating to
J.J.'s adjudication unless Suttles could show a
connection of such evidence to a motive or bias at trial.
Additionally, the State sought to exclude evidence of
J.J.'s mental-health medical diagnosis. The trial court
permitted Suttles to ask J.J. whether he was experiencing
auditory and visual hallucinations. Because Suttles did not
intend to go into the specific medical diagnosis, the trial
court did not rule on the admissibility of J.J.'s medical
trial, the trial court permitted both the State and Suttles
to question J.J. about his hallucinations and the events
leading to his 2017 hospitalization following his suicide
attempt. J.J. testified that he experienced hallucinations
before and while he was in the hospital. J.J. related one
hallucination where he saw a little boy standing face first
in a dark corner of the room. J.J. also noted that he
experienced multiple auditory hallucinations where male and
female voices would tell him to hurt himself. However, J.J.
was firm in his testimony that he did not hallucinate the
sexual abuse incident involving Suttles:
[b]ecause I know whenever I'm seeing something that's
not there and I know when something actually happened because
I feel it and I remember everything. I remember where it all
took place. I remember their names. I remember what the rooms
looked like. I remember how it sounded; what it smelled like;
what it looked like. I remember everything.
response to Suttles's questions about J.J.'s
hospitalization following his 2017 suicide attempt, J.J.
testified that he attempted suicide after an argument with
his father. The State objected to Suttles questioning J.J.
about whether his father was around when J.J. was growing up
and whether J.J.'s father was in jail. Suttles explained
to the court that she wished to provide evidence that
J.J.'s father was in jail during the attempted suicide
incident and that J.J. had hallucinated the argument that he
says led him to attempt suicide. The trial court allowed
Suttles's line of questioning. Suttles then asked J.J.
whether he had a conversation with his father on January 17,
2017 at a restaurant with his mother and sister. J.J.
admitted that he had spoken in person with his father.
sought to question J.J. about other incidents of
hallucinations; in particular, whether J.J. had
hallucinations telling him to break into people's garages
and houses. The trial court sustained the State's
objection to the introduction of evidence mentioning
J.J.'s prior juvenile criminal history. The trial court
found the evidence bordered on character evidence, and that
Suttles was unable to show the relevance of such evidence on
the issue of J.J.'s truthfulness.
the hearing of the jury, Suttles made an offer of proof
regarding J.J.'s hallucinations telling him to break into
people's garages and houses:
SUTTLES: [J.J.], you had auditory hallucinations that told
you to break into people's garages. Is that right?
J.J.: Yes, ma'am.
SUTTLES: You had auditory hallucinations that told you to
enter into people's houses. Is that right?
J.J.: Yes, ma'am.
SUTTLES: You had auditory hallucinations that told you on
occasion to hurt other people beside ...