Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LACLEDE COUNTY Honorable Kenneth M.
Hayden, Circuit Judge.
Steffen Rahmeyer, J.
Dean Priest ("Appellant") was convicted of murder
in the first degree for the murder of fifteen-year-old T.R.
("Victim") that occurred over thirty years ago.
Appellant brings two points on appeal: first, Appellant
claims the trial court erred in not granting a judgment of
acquittal because insufficient evidence was presented from
which a reasonable juror could have concluded beyond a
reasonable doubt that Victim's murder was committed
"in the perpetration of" her rape; second, that the
trial court erred in refusing to grant a mistrial when a
State's witness made the comment "[e]verybody knows
[Appellant] anyways in the Kansas Department of
Corrections." We find no error and affirm the
thirty years after the disappearance of Victim, the nephew of
Appellant and a witness to Victim's rape and murder
("Witness"), came forward and implicated Appellant.
The evidence at trial indicated that Appellant suggested to
Witness that they ask Victim if she wanted to skip school and
come with them. Victim got into the car with Witness and
Appellant. Despite Victim's repeated requests to go back
to school, Appellant drove to a remote area. Victim said she
had to go to the restroom and fled. Appellant told Witness to
go get Victim. Witness calmed Victim down and convinced
Victim to return to the car. Appellant suggested Witness and
Victim have sex while Appellant watched. Afterwards,
Appellant told Victim to get back in the front seat next to
him. When she did, Appellant hit Victim over the head with a
wrench, raped her and strangled her.
evidence included Appellant asking his ex-girlfriend to lie
to police and to say that she had seen Victim later than the
date she was reported missing. Appellant also told
Victim's mother (who was also his girlfriend) that he had
hidden Victim and that she must stay with him if she ever
wanted to see her daughter again. A schoolmate also testified
that he had seen Victim enter a car that day and that she was
not seen afterwards. The school friend was able to identify
Witness's picture from a photo line-up which brought the
police to Witness. Ultimately, after the death of his mother
when he knew that his mother and brother could not be
implicated, Witness assisted the police with the
was charged with first-degree murder under the theory that he
"caused the death of [Victim] by strangling her, and
that [Appellant] did so in raping [Victim] or to prevent
detection after raping [Victim.]" Appellant challenges
the sufficiency of the evidence under the theory that the
only witness to the murder testified that Victim was
strangled and killed after the rape and not "in the
perpetration" of the rape. Appellant argues that under
"felony" murder killing, "a defendant may be
responsible for any deaths that are the natural and proximate
result of the crime." Appellant argues that the rape and
strangulation are two separate crimes and that the
strangulation was not the natural and proximate result of the
the homicide is within the res gestae of the initial crime
and is an emanation therefrom, it is committed in the
perpetration of that crime [in the statutory sense]."
State v. Milentz, 547 S.W.2d 164, 168 (Mo.App.
St.L.D. 1977) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Felony murder applies where the crime and murder are parts of
one continuous transaction and are closely connected in point
of time, place and causal relationship. Id. Missouri
courts determine if the underlying felony "'set into
motion the chain of events'" that caused the death.
State v. Burrage, 465 S.W.3d 77, 80 (Mo.App. E.D.
2015) (quoting State v. Moore, 580 S.W.2d 747, 752
(Mo. banc 1979)).
testimony at trial was that the entire series of events
happened quickly. To expect Witness to parse out when the
rape ended and the suffocation began is an untenable task
under the facts of this crime. The rape and murder were so
closely connected by time and space as to be considered one
continuous transaction. The actions of Appellant, including
the strangling, were within the res gestae of the initial
crime of the rape. Appellant's later statements and
actions in hiding the body provide a reasonable inference
that he murdered to cover up the rape. Appellant's first
point is denied.
second point, Appellant claims that the unsolicited remark by
Witness that "[e]verybody knows [Appellant] anyways in
the Kansas Department of Corrections" should have
resulted in a mistrial. Appellant claims prejudice insisting
Appellant had to testify and thus admit that he had been
convicted of murder in the State of Kansas. It is without
question that a mistrial is a drastic remedy and should only
be exercised in extraordinary situations where the prejudice
against the defendant cannot be removed. State v.
Guske, 501 S.W.3d 922, 923 (Mo.App. S.D. 2016). We
review the refusal to grant a mistrial under an abuse of
discretion standard. Id. at 923.
case, the trial court rejected the request for a mistrial
concluding that the statement was vague enough that it did
not identify Appellant as an inmate in the Kansas Department
of Corrections. We agree. It was clear from the testimony
that Witness was familiar with the Kansas Department of
Corrections as he was in the Kansas penal system on multiple
occasions. We do not know what the remark references, nor
could the jury. As far as the jury knew, Appellant could have
been a frequent visitor of Witness. The spontaneous remark
did not force Appellant to testify or prejudice him in
anyway. There is no connection between this murder and any
criminal history of Appellant. Witness's statements were,
at best, a vague reference to a corrections facility in
Kansas and did not violate Appellant's right to be tried
only for this murder. See State v. Lutz, 334 S.W.3d
157, 160-62 (Mo.App. S.D. 2011) (where a police officer's
meeting face-to-face with a defendant which allowed him to
recognize the defendant in a surveillance video of a crime
scene was not inadmissible evidence of prior bad acts).
Appellant's second point is denied.
judgment is affirmed.
W. Lynch, P.J., William W. Francis, Jr., J. - Concurs.