595 N.E.2d 884 (Ohio 1992), 90-177, State v. Hill

Docket Nº:90-177.
Citation:595 N.E.2d 884, 64 Ohio St.3d 313, 1992-Ohio-43
Opinion Judge:SWEENEY, J.
Party Name:The STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. HILL, Appellant.
Attorney:Dennis Watkins, Pros. Atty., and Peter J. Kontos, for appellee. Dennis Watkins, Prosecuting Attorney, and Peter J. Kontos, for appellee., Tataru, Wallace & Warner and Roger Warner; Tyack, Wright Turner and Carol A. Wright, for appellant.
Case Date:August 12, 1992
Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Page 884

595 N.E.2d 884 (Ohio 1992)

64 Ohio St.3d 313, 1992-Ohio-43

The STATE of Ohio, Appellee,


HILL, Appellant.

No. 90-177.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

August 12, 1992

Submitted April 8, 1992.

Page 885

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 886

On September 10, 1985, at approximately 5:15 p.m., twelve-year-old Raymond Fife left home on his bicycle to visit a friend, Billy Simmons. According to Billy, Raymond would usually get to Billy's residence by cutting through the wooded field with bicycle paths located behind the Valu-King store on Palmyra Road in Warren.

Matthew Hunter, a Warren Western Reserve High School student, testified that he

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went to the Valu-King on the date in question with his brother and sister shortly after 5:00 p.m. Upon reaching the front of the Valu-King, Hunter saw Tim Combs and defendant-appellant, Danny Lee Hill, walking in the parking lot towards the store. After purchasing some items in the Valu-King, Hunter observed defendant and Combs standing in front of a nearby laundromat. Combs greeted Hunter as he walked by. Hunter also saw Raymond Fife at that time riding his bike into the Valu-King parking lot.

Darren Ball, another student at the high school, testified that he and Troy Cree left football practice at approximately 5:15 p.m. on September 10, and walked down Willow Street to a trail in the field located behind the Valu-King. Ball testified that he and Cree saw Combs on the trail walking in the opposite direction from the Valu-King. Upon reaching the edge of the trail close to the Valu-King, Ball heard a child's scream, "like somebody needed help or something."

Yet another student from the high school, Donald E. Allgood, testified that he and a friend were walking in the vicinity of the wooded field behind the Valu-King between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the date in question. Allgood noticed defendant, Combs and two other persons "walking out of the field coming from Valu-King," and saw defendant throw a stick back into the woods. Allgood also observed Combs pull up the zipper of his blue jeans. Combs "put his head down" when he saw Allgood.

At approximately 5:50 p.m. on the date in question, Simmons called the Fife residence to find out where Raymond was. Simmons then rode his bicycle to [64 Ohio St.3d 314] the Fifes' house around 6:10 p.m. When it was apparent that Raymond Fife's whereabouts were unknown, Simmons continued on to a Boy Scouts meeting, while members of the Fife family began searching for Raymond.

At approximately 9:30 p.m., Mr. Fife found his son in the wooded field behind the Valu-King. Raymond was naked and appeared to have been severely beaten and burnt in the face. One of the medics on the scene testified that Raymond's groin was swollen and bruised, and that it appeared that his rectum had been torn. Raymond's underwear was found tied around his neck and appeared to have been lit on fire.

Raymond died in the hospital two days later. The coroner ruled Raymond's death a homicide. The cause of death was found to be cardiorespiratory arrest secondary to asphyxiation, subdural hematoma and multiple trauma. The coroner testified that the victim had been choked and had a hemorrhage in his brain, which normally occurs after trauma or injury to the brain. The coroner also testified that the victim sustained multiple burns, damage to his rectal-bladder area and bite marks on his penis. The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that the victim sustained numerous external injuries and abrasions, and had a ligature mark around his neck. The doctor also noticed profuse bleeding from the victim's rectal area, and testified that the victim had been impaled with an object that had been inserted through the anus, and penetrated through the rectum into the urinary bladder.

On September 12, 1985, defendant went downtown to the Warren Police Station to inquire about a $5,000 reward that was being offered for information concerning the murder of Raymond Fife. Defendant met with Sergeant Thomas W. Stewart of the Warren Police Department and told him that he had "just seen Reecie Lowery riding the boy's bike who was beat up." When Stewart asked defendant how he knew the bike he saw was the victim's bike, defendant replied, "I know it is." Defendant then told Stewart, "If you don't go out and get the bike now, maybe [Lowery will] put it back in the field." According to Stewart, the defendant then stated that he had seen Lowery and Andre McCain coming through the field at around 1:00 that morning. In the summary of his interview with defendant, Stewart noted that defendant "knew a lot about the bike and about the underwear around the [victim's] neck." Also, when Stewart asked defendant if he knew Tim Combs, defendant replied, "Yeah, I know Tim Combs. * * * I ain't

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seen him since he's been out of the joint. He like boys. He could have done it too."

On September 13, 1985, the day after Stewart's interview with defendant, Sergeant Dennis Steinbeck of the Warren Police Department read Stewart's summary of the interview, and then went to defendant's home and asked him to come to the police station to make a statement. Defendant voluntarily [64 Ohio St.3d 315] went to the police station with Steinbeck, whereupon defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and signed a waiver-of-rights form. Defendant made a statement that was transcribed by Steinbeck, but the sergeant forgot to have defendant sign the statement. Subsequently, Steinbeck discovered that some eyewitnesses had seen defendant at the Valu-King on the day of the murder.

On the following Monday, September 16, Steinbeck went to defendant's house accompanied by defendant's uncle, Detective Morris Hill of the Warren Police Department. Defendant again went voluntarily to the police station, as did his mother. Defendant was given his Miranda rights, which he waived at that time as well. After further questioning by Sergeants Stewart and Steinbeck and Detective Hill, defendant indicated that he wanted to be alone with his uncle, Detective Hill. Several minutes later, defendant stated to Hill that he was "in the field behind Valu-King when the young Fife boy got murdered."

Defendant was given and waived his Miranda rights again, and then made two more voluntary statements, one on audiotape and the other on videotape. In both statements, defendant admitted that he was present during the beating and sexual assault of Raymond Fife, but that Combs did everything to the victim. Defendant stated that he saw Combs knock the victim off his bike, hold the victim in some sort of headlock, and throw him onto the bike several times. Defendant further stated that he saw Combs rape the victim anally and kick him in the head. Defendant stated that Combs pulled on the victim's penis to the point where defendant assumed Combs had pulled it off. Defendant related that Combs then took something like a broken broomstick and jammed it into the victim's rectum. Defendant also stated that Combs choked the victim and burnt him with lighter fluid. While defendant never admitted any direct involvement in the murder, he did admit that he stayed with the victim while Combs left the area of the attack to get the broomstick and the lighter fluid used to burn the victim.

Upon further investigation by authorities, defendant was indicted on counts of kidnapping, rape, aggravated arson, felonious sexual penetration, aggravated robbery and aggravated murder with specifications.

On December 16, 1985, a pretrial hearing was held on defendant's motion to suppress statements made to police officers both orally and on tape. On January 17, 1986, the court of common pleas concluded as follows:

"It is the opinion of this Court that no Fourth Amendment violation was shown because [defendant] was at no time 'seized' by the police department, but rather came in either voluntarily, or as in the case of September 16th because of his mother's demands.

" * * *

[64 Ohio St.3d 316] "Defendant's Fifth Amendment Rights were clearly protected by the numerous Miranda Warnings and waivers. Though this Court believes that the defendant could not have effectively read the rights or waiver forms, the Court relies on the fact that at any time he was given a piece of paper to sign acknowledging receipt of the Miranda Warnings and waiving his rights, the paper was always read to him before he affixed any of his signatures.

"Though defendant is retarded, he is not so seriously impaired as to have been incapable of voluntarily and knowingly given the statements which the defendant now seeks to suppress. The Court reaches this conclusion after seeing and listening to the defendant at the Suppression Hearing and listening to and watching the tape recording and videotaped statements of the defendant. The Court concludes that the statements were made voluntarily, willingly, and knowingly."

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Meanwhile, on January 7, 1986, defendant appeared before the trial court and executed a waiver of his right to a jury trial.

On January 21, 1986, defendant's trial began in front of a three-judge panel. Among the voluminous testimony from witnesses and the numerous exhibits, the following evidence was adduced:

Defendant's brother, Raymond L. Vaughn, testified that he saw defendant wash his gray pants on the night of the murder as well as on the following two days. Vaughn identified the pants in court, and testified that it looked like defendant was washing out "something red. * * * It looked like blood to me * * *."

Detective Sergeant William Carnahan of the Warren Police Department testified that on September 15, 1985 he went with eyewitness Donald Allgood to the place where Allgood stated he had seen defendant and Combs coming out of the wooded field, and where he had seen defendant toss...

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