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State v. Davis

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

February 7, 2018

The State, Respondent,
Teresa Annette Davis, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2015-000981

          Heard December 11, 2017

         Appeal From Oconee County R. Lawton McIntosh, Circuit Court Judge

          Christian Stegmaier and Kelsey Jan Brudvig, both of Collins & Lacy, PC, and Chief Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek, all of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Assistant Deputy Attorney General David A. Spencer, and Assistant Attorney General Mary Frances G. Jowers, all of Columbia, for Respondent.

          SHORT, J.

         Teresa Davis appeals her convictions of first-degree burglary and possession with intent to distribute (PWID) methamphetamine, second offense, for which the trial court sentenced her to a cumulative term of eighteen years' imprisonment. On appeal, Davis argues the trial court erred by (1) denying Davis's motion to sever her charges, (2) refusing to direct a verdict of acquittal when the State failed to present evidence showing Davis had control over the drugs found in the vehicle, and (3) refusing to direct a verdict of acquittal because the State failed to introduce any direct or substantial circumstantial evidence that the home was occupied, for the purposes of qualifying as a dwelling, at the time of the alleged burglary. We affirm.


         As he was driving to work on February 10, 2014, Douglas Paul noticed a strange car in the driveway of his mother's home. Paul testified his mother suffered from Alzheimer's disease and had moved to a nursing home in the area about six months prior. His mother had given him a power of attorney, and he placed her home on the market but maintained and cared for the property, usually stopping by at least once a week. Not recognizing the car, Paul stopped at the house and looked around the property. After finding the car empty, Paul approached the house and found the front door was still locked. He walked to the garage door, which was still closed. Peering through the garage window, Paul noticed the door adjoining the house and garage was open. Suspecting an intruder, Paul called his wife and asked her to bring the key to the house as well as his handgun.[1] Once his wife arrived, Paul entered the home through the front door and noticed the glass sliding door at the back of the house was open. Hearing a noise upstairs, Paul shouted, "I know somebody is here. You know, whoever you are, you need to answer me." Paul also warned the intruder he was armed with a handgun. Paul exited the house and called the police because the noise from upstairs became clangorous, sounding as if "someone was tossing furniture." About eight to ten officers responded to the scene at various points throughout the day and most were in uniform. Officer George Mayer was the first to respond. Paul's wife informed Mayer she saw a man, who looked out of place, walking down the street. Mayer located the man and placed him in investigative detention in a squad car at the scene. Mayer identified the man as Ted Davis ("Brother"). Mayer searched Brother, finding a pair of work gloves in his boot as well as a white substance and glass pipe adjacent to his person.[2]

         After a sweep of the scene, the police did not find anyone within the home or on the property. Paul walked through the home with the police, finding various doors, cabinets, and closets open throughout the home and garage, as well as an open window in the master bathroom located on the back part of the roof. Paul testified many of his mother's antiques and jewelry were collected in piles throughout the home. The police found a latex glove on the floor in the garage.

         The police completed an inventory of the vehicle in the driveway, finding a purse and a small plaid bag next to each other in the driver's seat. Inside the purse, the police found Teresa Davis's South Carolina driver's license, lip balm, and some paperwork. The smaller plaid bag contained money, a digital scale, tissue paper, little baggies, a spoon, and a metal tin that contained two bags containing a crystallike substance. The police also found mail in the back of the car behind the driver's seat. The mail was addressed to Davis, and the address matched the one on her driver's license. After running the license plate tag on the car, the police found it was registered to Lavina Davis.

         After inventorying the vehicle, the police suspected another person may still be on the property. As some officers were walking along the back of the house, they spotted Teresa Davis crouching on the roof behind the chimney. As the police assisted Davis down from the chimney, a glass pipe rolled down the roof. The police placed Davis in investigative detention and read her Miranda[3] rights to her. After waiving her rights, Davis told police she was at the home because she was dropping off her friend Joe Mann. Davis further explained she hid on the roof because she was frightened. When asked why she remained on the roof for hours while the police were investigating, Davis did not respond.

         When the police inquired about the drugs found in the car, Davis admitted the drugs were hers, stating, "That's mine. My brother doesn't do that." The police then placed Davis under arrest for PWID methamphetamine, after which Davis recanted her confession.[4] While conducting a search of Davis's person, the police found gloves and a flashlight in her jacket pocket. A grand jury indicted Davis for first-degree burglary and PWID methamphetamine, second offense.

         At the beginning of trial, Davis moved to sever her charges, arguing the offenses were not closely related in kind or character. The trial court denied Davis's motion, finding both charges required the same witnesses.

         During trial, Paul testified his mother lived in the home for thirty-seven years before moving to a nursing home in the area for medical reasons. Paul explained as his mother's attorney in fact, he placed the home on the market because the future was uncertain; however, it was the family's hope that she would be able to return to the home at some point. Paul testified either he or his wife checked on the home every "two to three days." Paul testified all of his mother's furniture, as well as some of her clothing, remained in the home. Paul also testified he and his wife stopped by the home a couple days before the incident, and they left the home with all the doors and windows closed and locked. Paul specified he kept "big, round wooden sticks" in the sliding glass doors that had to be removed from inside the house to open the doors. Paul testified the utilities were still on in the home. Paul testified he was "a hundred percent certain" he did not leave the bathroom window open, and for it to be opened, someone would have to open both the window and the outer storm window. Paul noted it was cold and the heat was on in the house, so neither he nor his wife would have left any doors or windows open. On cross-examination, Paul admitted the home was on the market at the time of the incident. Paul testified his mother had not returned to the residence since moving to the nursing home, and he did not stay at the home because he lived within walking distance.

         The trial court recognized Meredith Landford as an expert in forensic chemistry. Landford testified that after testing the amounts found in the plaid bag, she ascertained the first bag contained 4.61 grams of methamphetamine and the second bag contained 2.63 grams of methamphetamine. Investigator William Freestate testified the items found within the plaid bag, such as the digital scale, spoon, and baggies, indicated the methamphetamine was for distribution rather than personal use. Additionally, Patrick Wagner, an evidence technician for the sheriff's office, testified he recovered one latent print from the home, and it did not match Davis's prints.

         At the close of the State's case, the trial court instructed the jury the parties stipulated Davis had two prior burglary convictions. Davis moved for a directed verdict on the first-degree burglary charge, arguing the State failed to show there was an "occupant or inhabitant against whom the offense could have been committed"; therefore, the home did not qualify as a dwelling for purposes of first-degree burglary. Specifically, Davis asserted the vacant house was on the market and neither the owner nor Paul resided therein. The State argued all of Paul's mother's furniture remained in the home, and she would have returned to the home had her condition improved. The State further noted the family only placed the home on ...

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