673 N.E.2d 1185 (Ind. 1996), 46S00-9412-CR-1308, Edgecomb v. State

Docket Nº:46S00-9412-CR-1308.
Citation:673 N.E.2d 1185
Party Name:Lawanna EDGECOMB, Appellant (Defendant Below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).
Case Date:November 01, 1996
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana

Page 1185

673 N.E.2d 1185 (Ind. 1996)

Lawanna EDGECOMB, Appellant (Defendant Below),


STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).

No. 46S00-9412-CR-1308.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

November 1, 1996

Rehearing Denied Jan. 22, 1997.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Donald W. Pagos, Michigan City, for Appellant.

Pamela Carter, Attorney General of Indiana and James A. Joven, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, for Appellee.

SHEPARD, Chief Justice.

A jury found appellant Lawanna D. Edgecomb guilty of aiding Laurida Arion in the April 12, 1994, felony murder of Anna Motylewski. 1 The trial court sentenced Edgecomb to the forty-year presumptive sentence plus an additional twenty years more for aggravating circumstances.

Edgecomb raises a substantial issue on direct appeal concerning sufficiency of the evidence. Upon careful examination, we resolve it against her. Her other allegations of error likewise do not point to reversal. Accordingly, we affirm.

  1. Facts

    The facts most favorable to the verdict are that sometime on or before Sunday, April 10, 1994, Lawanna Edgecomb told Laurida Arion, the sister of Edgecomb's boyfriend, how she stole money from Anna Motylewski in December 1993. While visiting Anna Motylewski's to use the phone, Edgecomb had stolen about $150 from a box in Motylewski's bedroom closet when the ninety-two year old woman was not looking. Soon after, Motylewski confronted Edgecomb at Edgecomb's home about the missing money. Edgecomb denied taking it. Although Motylewski told Edgecomb never to visit her again, the elderly woman did not report the incident to the police.

    When Arion learned of this easy theft, she showed great interest in trying to take more money from Motylewski. The two women discussed Motylewski and her money that Sunday afternoon in Edgecomb's kitchen. Arion's nineteen year old son Christopher Griffin was also at Edgecomb's, and he overheard part of the conversation. Arion spent that night at Edgecomb's, and the two further discussed Edgecomb's theft late that night in the privacy of Edgecomb's bathroom while the others in the house slept.

    On Monday, April 11, Edgecomb provided Arion with information about the elderly woman's money, whether she had any more, where exactly it was kept, the layout of her house, and her daily routine regarding visitors and nurses, etc. Arion asked Edgecomb to help her gain entrance to Motylewski's home by asking to use the phone, so that Arion could use the opportunity to search for money in the house. Edgecomb refused, stating that Motylewski would no longer allow her to use the phone because of the previous theft.

    On Tuesday, April 12, Arion again visited Edgecomb's, arriving around 10 a.m. Arion stood at the window and watched Motylewski's residence with a pair of binoculars while Edgecomb told her more about Motylewski's house, including whether there was a basement or an attic. Arion asked whether Motylewski's basement had a door leading to it, and whether Motylewski kept it open or shut. She also made statements to Edgecomb about the difficulty Motylewski must have in getting up and down the basement stairs. From this conversation Edgecomb understood Arion to be considering pushing Motylewski down the stairs to make it look like an

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    accident if something went wrong. Arion again asked Edgecomb to accompany her to Motylewski's, and offered to split any money she was able to find with Edgecomb. Again Edgecomb refused, stating that Motylewski would never let Edgecomb in to use the phone.

    Edgecomb then left her home to call her doctor for an appointment from the residence of Verna Bailey, two doors down. She reached the doctor's answering machine which said to call back after 1 p.m. She chatted awhile with Bailey, then went back home. Arion was still there. At around 1 p.m. Edgecomb watched Arion go out to her car and stay there while watching Motylewski working in her yard. When Motylewski went back inside her home, Arion proceeded across the street and up onto her porch. Arion knocked on Motylewski's door, and told the elderly woman that she was the sister of a neighbor and needed to use her phone. Arion pointed to her red Ford Escort parked in Edgecomb's driveway across the street as verification. Motylewski knew that the Propes/Edgecomb residence did not have a phone, so she allowed Arion into her home.

    Shortly thereafter, Christopher Griffin arrived at Edgecomb's. He knocked on the door, but Edgecomb would not answer. In fact, she went into her bathroom so Griffin would not see her, hoping he would go away. He persisted in his knocking, thinking his mother must be there because her car was parked in front of the house.

    Edgecomb finally let him in. When Griffin asked Edgecomb where his mother was, she informed him that Arion had gone to Motylewski's to try to sneak some money out of her house, and that Arion had offered to share any money she got with Edgecomb. Edgecomb soon asked Griffin to go over to Motylewski's with her to see what was going on, but Griffin would not go. Edgecomb walked over to Motylewski's by herself, going up onto the porch. She heard noises that sounded like shuffling or someone going through things. Upon peering through the storm door, she saw Motylewski at the bottom of her basement stairs, with Arion standing behind her demanding to know where her money was. She returned to her home about five minutes after she left, telling Griffin that she thought something was going wrong and asking him to return to Motylewski's with her. When Griffin again refused, Edgecomb went to Bailey's again to call her doctor, as well as to call Motylewski's to see what was going on.

    The evidence concerning what occurred inside Motylewski's home suggests that after Arion finished using the phone, she asked Motylewski for her money and where it was located. When Motylewski replied that she did not have any, Arion forced Motylewski into the basement and began to beat her severely while continuing to demand money. (This is the scene Edgecomb observed by peering through the porch door.) After the beating, Arion went back upstairs and found some money, papers, and a telephone. She then fled the house.

    Arion ran back across the street to Edgecomb's. She found Griffin there alone (by this time, Edgecomb had gone a second time to Bailey's to call the doctor and Motylewski's). Arion was carrying a bag in her arms; she asked Griffin to tell Edgecomb that she needed to meet her at Arion's parent's home in LaPorte later that day. Meanwhile, the battered Motylewski slowly made her way up the stairs and eventually out into the yard to seek help.

    After making her doctor's appointment and then receiving no answer at Motylewski's, Edgecomb left Bailey's at around 1:20 p.m. and returned home. As she passed Motylewski's, Edgecomb noticed the elderly woman in her front yard calling to her for help. Edgecomb assisted her back to her front steps and helped her sit down. Motylewski was bleeding severely from her eyes and from abrasions on her arms and head. Her face, neck, chest, and back were severely bruised. When asked what had happened, Motylewski told Edgecomb that a woman claiming to be Edgecomb's sister had asked to use her phone, and then had beaten her after demanding money and not getting any. After seating the woman, Edgecomb ran across the street to her home and procured the assistance of Griffin--Arion was already gone. The two helped Motylewski back into

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    her kitchen and got bandages and towels for her wounds. Not finding Motylewski's phone, Edgecomb went across the street to another neighbor's home and called 9-1-1.

    At 1:53 p.m., Kim Ritter, dispatcher for the LaPorte County 9-1-1 center, received the call from Edgecomb, who said: "Now, a neighbor lady across from me, I was walking back from another neighbor's ... and she's all bloody, like she has fallen or something, I don't know what's happened to her. She can't, I can't make out what she's saying." (R. at 211.) Edgecomb also told Ritter that Motylewski had mentioned a "red car." The dispatcher asked Edgecomb, "So you don't know if someone may have assaulted her or anything," to which Edgecomb replied, "She said, I don't know why they did this? I said, Ann, who did this? ... She said I don't know." (R. at 211-12.)

    When the first police officer arrived a few moments later, Edgecomb approached him, identified herself as the 9-1-1 caller, and described how she had encountered and assisted Anna while returning from a neighbor's. Edgecomb also reported that earlier she had observed a white vehicle driven by a female who had gone to Anna's door, but she could not describe the woman or say if the woman had gone inside. After taking a statement from Motylewski, the officer returned to Edgecomb and asked her if she had any sisters or relatives who might have gone to Motylewski's that day. Edgecomb reported that she only had one sister who lived in LaPorte and had not seen her for two months, and that none of her relatives would have had any business at Motylewski's that day.

    Upon investigation the police discovered blood on the last few steps of the basement, a great deal of blood on the floor at the base of the stairs, and blood and hair on a ceiling support column. They also found a broken styrofoam flower pot, a pop can that had been thrown against a wall and exploded, and scattered cat food cans, some dented with blood on them. A ladder had also been turned over. By contrast, the upstairs appeared relatively normal, except for the placement of a chair, which appeared to have blood drops on it, in front of an open bedroom closet.

    When Christopher Griffin returned to his grandparent's house (where he lived) after Motylewski was...

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