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State v. Lynch

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

March 18, 2015

The State, Respondent,
v.
Kenneth Andrew Lynch, Appellant

Heard February 3, 2015

Appeal From Lexington County. Eugene C. Griffith, Jr., Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-212547.

AFFIRMED.

Page 347

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 348

Appellate Defender Susan Barber Hackett, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and Assistant Attorney General J. Anthony Mabry, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Donald V. Myers, of Lexington, for Respondent.

LOCKEMY, J. SHORT and McDONALD, JJ., concur.

OPINION

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[412 S.C. 161] LOCKEMY, J.:

This case arises out of the disappearance of Portia Washington and her granddaughter, Angelica Livingston (collectively, the victims). The victims were last seen on June 10, 2006. Their bodies have never been recovered. The State indicted Kenneth Lynch with grand larceny of Portia's car and with the murder of the victims. Lynch was convicted as indicted following a bench trial before the Honorable Eugene C. Griffith, Jr. The State sought the death penalty; however, the trial court sentenced Lynch to two terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murders and ten years' imprisonment for grand larceny. Lynch appeals his convictions, arguing the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion for a directed verdict because the State failed to present substantial circumstantial evidence of his guilt; (2) not giving a jury instruction regarding how to use and evaluate circumstantial evidence; and (3) not suppressing evidence seized during his arrest because the arrest warrant was not supported by probable cause. We affirm.

FACTS

A. The State's Case

At trial, Linda Miller, Portia's friend, testified the victims lived together and Portia was Angelica's caretaker. Miller explained Portia enjoyed her job at Bob Bennett Ford, where she worked as a custodian. Portia had recently purchased a new car, which she loved. While working at Bob Bennett Ford, Portia developed a romantic relationship with Lynch, a fellow co-worker. According to Miller, Portia and Lynch were living together in June 2006, when the victims disappeared. Miller explained that before Portia met Lynch she was happy but that began to change. Miller admitted she had never met [412 S.C. 162] Lynch. Miller stated the last time she saw the victims was on Friday, June 9, 2006, and on that day, Portia did not tell her she was planning to take a trip.

Shyla Andrews, the victims' hair stylist, stated she last saw the victims on Saturday, June 10, 2006, when they were scheduled for a hair appointment. Andrews testified that on that day, Portia was acting nervous and was in a hurry to leave. Andrews stated Portia developed into a nervous person when she began dating Lynch, and she advised Portia to end the relationship. According to Andrews, Portia had a close relationship with her family, and she would not disappear without telling them where she was going.

Lela Green, another friend of Portia's, stated Portia called her on Saturday, June 10, 2006, around 6:00 p.m. and told her she was going to the grocery store to buy food to cook for Sunday lunch. Green stated she planned to have lunch with Portia on Sunday, June 11, 2006, but she never saw Portia again. According to Green, Portia enjoyed her job, and she never told her she was planning to leave South Carolina.

Carla Perry, Portia and Lynch's neighbor, testified she last saw the victims on the afternoon of Saturday, June 10, 2006. According to Perry, Portia was unloading laundry from her car, which was parked outside the apartment, and Lynch was with Portia standing outside the car. Perry further stated Angelica came by her apartment that afternoon wearing a wet bathing suit and appeared to have been swimming at the apartment complex's swimming pool. According to Perry, around 10:30 p.m. that night, she noticed Portia's car was missing and Portia's plants were outside her apartment, which Perry found strange because Portia always brought her plants inside on Saturday night.

Sallie Jones, Portia's mother, testified she had a close relationship with Portia and they talked every day. Jones claimed Portia loved Angelica, her job, and her new car. According to Jones, Portia would not allow anyone to drive her car, and Portia had given her the spare set of keys to her car and told her she did not want Lynch driving it. Jones, however, admitted that Lynch had previously driven Portia's car to drop off Angelica at her house. Jones explained that before Portia met Lynch, she was very happy and enjoyed [412 S.C. 163] spending time with her family; however, she became less involved with her family after meeting Lynch. Jones stated Portia had never gone more than one week without calling her. Jones stated Portia did not like to drive on the interstate and she

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rarely traveled outside South Carolina. Jones testified Portia planned to meet her on Sunday, June 11, 2006, but she never heard from her after Saturday, June 10, 2006.

Vernelle Bellamy, Portia's aunt, testified she last saw Portia on Saturday, June 10, 2006. After she had not heard from Portia for several days, she went to Portia's apartment and spoke with the apartment manager. Bellamy stated the apartment manager entered Portia's apartment and told her the apartment " looked like somebody was cleaning up."

Debra Hobgood, a manager at Bob Bennett Ford, testified Portia had worked as a custodian for five years and was a good employee. Hobgood described herself as Portia's friend and she helped Portia pick out her new car and loaned her money for a down payment. Hobgood stated Portia loved her car and would not let anyone drive it. Hobgood asserted that when Portia started dating Lynch, she began to have low self-esteem and was " always questioning what she did." Hobgood gave Portia $650 to find a new apartment because she wanted her to get away from Lynch; however, at the time of the incident, Hobgood was unaware Portia was living with Lynch. Hobgood stated Angelica planned to attend summer camp in the summer of 2006 and was very excited. According to Hobgood, she last saw Portia on Friday, June 9, 2006, and the last thing Portia said to her was, " I'll see you Monday."

Nancy Hyler, the former office manager at Bob Bennett Ford, testified the last pay check issued for Portia was on June 16, 2006, but it was never picked up. Carly Coviello, an employee with T-Mobile, testified the last call made from Portia's cell phone was at 9:26 p.m. on June 10, 2006, in West Columbia. Steven Newnom, an employee at TransUnion Credit Union, testified there had been no credit inquiries for Portia's records. Julia Price, of Ford Motor Credit Company, explained that Portia purchased a 2005 Ford Focus on June 22, 2005, pursuant to a financing agreement with Ford Motor Credit, and the last payment received by Ford was on June 12, 2006. Dawn Hurley testified Portia had checking and [412 S.C. 164] savings accounts with Bank of America. According to Hurley, the last transaction on the savings account was on June 10, 2006, at 9:50 a.m., and the last transaction for the checking account was an automatic draft to Ford Motor Credit on June 12, 2006.

Nicky Rodgers, an employee with Lexington County 911 who had access to a national database for drivers' licenses, found one driver's license for Portia and it was in South Carolina. James Hinton, an employee of Lexington School District Two, testified Angelica last attended school on June 1, 2006, which was the end of her second grade year. The school expected Angelica to return the next year but she never returned, and the school district had received no requests from other schools for Angelica's school transcripts.

Ola Mathis, the former apartment manager of Portia and Lynch's apartment, stated that on June 13, 2006, she entered the victims' apartment and found no signs of forced entry, but that it had been cleaned in a way that looked " staged." She found a girl's church clothes laid on one of the beds. According to Mathis, " the only thing missing" from the apartment were the victims and Portia's car. Mathis explained the lease for the apartment stated Lynch and Portia were married.

Takiesha Shelton, an employee of Motel 6, testified motel records showed Lynch arrived at a motel in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on June 12, 2006, and departed on June 13, 2006. Records also showed Lynch arriving on June 14, 2006, and departing on June 15, 2006, at a motel in Eloy, Arizona. One receipt listed Lynch's address as Florida, but a second receipt showed an address in Cayce.

Shane Ramirez, an officer with the Texas Highway Patrol, testified he stopped Lynch for speeding on June 14, 2006, in Fort Hancock, Texas. Lynch was driving a 2005 Ford Focus that was registered to Portia. There were no passengers in the car but there was a child's car seat in the back. Ramirez described the car as " messy" like " someone had been living out of it." Lynch informed Ramirez that he was coming from Mississippi and was traveling to Arizona to pick up his wife.

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Agent Nathan Bresee, formerly a customs and border protection agent in Blaine, Washington, testified he encountered Lynch on June 17, 2006, at 10:45 p.m. at the United [412 S.C. 165] States/Canada border. Agent Bresee explained Lynch had " refusal paperwork" indicating he had been refused entry into Canada. Because Lynch had been refused entry into Canada, Agent Bresee performed a criminal history check on Lynch, which revealed a positive NCIC alert indicating Lynch was a missing person. Agent Bresee contacted the West Columbia Police Department (WCPD) as the reporting agency, and Detective April Bayne of WCPD informed him that Lynch was a suspect in a double homicide. Upon learning this information, Agent Bresee directed border protection agents to conduct two searches of Lynch's person and a search of his two bags.

Agent Bresee found several items in Lynch's possession that he faxed to WCPD, including a Greyhound bus ticket from Seattle, Washington, to Vancouver, Canada, dated June 17, 2006; a Motel 6 receipt dated June 14, 2006; and a second Motel 6 receipt dated June 12, 2006. Agent Bresee stated that at 3:10 a.m. on June 18, 2006, WCPD informed him that an arrest warrant had been issued for Lynch on the charge of grand larceny. Agent Bresee contacted the Whatcom County, Washington Sheriff's Department, and a sheriff's deputy came and served Lynch with an arrest warrant.

Deputy Courtney Polinder served the arrest warrant on Lynch between 4:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on June 18. Deputy Polinder informed Lynch of his Miranda [1] rights, retrieved Lynch's property from the border protection agents, and transported Lynch and his property to a county jail in Washington. On the way to jail, Deputy Polinder stated he did not interrogate Lynch, but Lynch made several statements. Lynch denied any involvement with Portia's car, which was listed in the arrest warrant. Lynch denied driving the vehicle to the west coast and stated he had traveled with a friend and then by bus. Lynch told Deputy Polinder he was planning to visit Vancouver, Canada, because he wanted " to see bears," which Deputy Polinder explained was strange because Vancouver is an urban area and bears live further north. Lynch told Deputy Polinder he lived with the victims, had recently [412 S.C. 166] quit his job, left to visit Canada, and planned to return to South Carolina. Officer Bradley Richardson of the Seattle Police Department found Portia's car on June 18, 2006, near a Greyhound bus station in Seattle. According to Officer Bradley, the license plates had been removed, and the car was very clean and looked like a rental car. Thereafter, he searched the car and found nothing inside the car or in the trunk.

On June 19, 2006, Agent Brenda Wilson, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Glen Hutchings, a local police officer, interviewed Lynch. During the interview, Lynch stated he quit his job at Bob Bennett Ford on Friday, June 9, 2010, but planned to return to South Carolina to attend a truck driving school. He admitted he and Portia had been in a romantic relationship but claimed their relationship had become " more like roommates" within the last year. Lynch stated he last saw Portia's car on Friday, June 10, 2006, when she drove him home from work. Lynch denied driving Portia's car outside of South Carolina. He stated he not seen Portia since June 10th because they had decided to " go their separate ways."

When Agent Wilson confronted Lynch with evidence that he had been stopped in Texas driving Portia's car, Lynch initially denied driving her car but then admitted it. He claimed Portia had allowed him to drive her car because she was in " over her head" with the payments. Lynch denied knowing the victims' whereabouts and stated it would be out of character for Portia to disappear because she " had a habit of going to the beauty salon and then church." According to Agent Wilson, Lynch acted " shocked" when he heard the victims were missing, and he stated he did not know anyone who would want to hurt them. Lynch further stated he had never seen other men at the apartment. When asked about Portia's car being found in Seattle, Lynch claimed he " just left it there and that he wanted to take the bus up to

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Canada." Agent Wilson then contacted WCPD with the information she learned from the interview.

Detective Glen Hutchings, formerly of the Bellingham, Washington Police Department, testified he was present during Lynch's interview with Agent Wilson. He claimed Lynch [412 S.C. 167] told him Portia was " head of maintenance" at Bob Bennett Ford and that Lynch " worked in the parts department." Detective Hutchings stated Lynch told him he planned to return to South Carolina to attend a 15-day truck driver training program with Werner Trucking Company. Detective Hutchings was familiar with Werner Trucking Company because his son worked for the company; however, he stated they did not have a 15-day truck driver training program. Detective Hutchings asserted Lynch initially denied driving Portia's car outside South Carolina and stated he had traveled with a friend to Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, California, Oregon, and Washington. According to Detective Hutchings, when Lynch was informed the victims were missing, his response was " very flat" and he did not ask any questions or show any emotion. Detective Hutchings stated Lynch claimed he left the ...


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