736 S.W.2d 409 (Mo. 1987), 68393, State v. Wilkins

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Citation736 S.W.2d 409
Date15 September 1987
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Heath A. WILKINS, Appellant.
Docket Number68393.

Page 409

736 S.W.2d 409 (Mo. 1987)

STATE of Missouri, Respondent,


Heath A. WILKINS, Appellant.

No. 68393.

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.

September 15, 1987

Rehearing Denied Oct. 13, 1987.

Page 410

Janet M. Thompson, Nancy A. McKerrow, Columbia, for appellant.

William L. Webster, Atty. Gen., John M. Morris, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for respondent.

BILLINGS, Chief Justice.

Defendant Heath A. Wilkins pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to death for the brutal and multiple stabbing killing of a 26-year-old mother of two small children during the course of a robbery of the victim's convenience store. Affirmed.

Defendant, proceeding pro se after dismissing and waiving appointed counsel, entered pleas of guilty to the murder charge, armed criminal action (sentenced to life imprisonment), and unlawful use of a weapon (sentenced to five years imprisonment), the last charge arising at the time of defendant's arrest approximately two weeks after the murder. Even though defendant dismissed and waived his right to an attorney, the trial judge directed the attorney to stand by throughout all of the proceedings and be available to counsel and advise the defendant upon the latter's request.

Page 411

The transcript of some 300 pages clearly reveals that the experienced and capable trial judge, the Honorable Glennon E. McFarland, fully explained, time and time again, defendant's various legal rights. Judge McFarland made repeated efforts to dissuade defendant from dismissing counsel and proceeding without an attorney. And, the conscientious trial judge offered to permit defendant to reconsider and withdraw his guilty pleas. Throughout the several court hearings, the defendant told the trial judge that he had fully and knowingly considered the alternative punishment of life imprisonment without eligibility for parole and that of the two possible sentences he preferred the death sentence. Section 565.020, RSMo 1986.

Because of defendant's stated position and acting as his own attorney, defendant did not take any of the prescribed steps to appeal his guilty plea and death penalty. Nevertheless, this Court requested the State Public Defender to enter the case as amicus curiae and to brief and argue "any issue subject to review."

The case was argued before the Court after defendant, appearing in person, advised the Court that he did not want the assistance of an attorney in the proceedings in this Court. At the conclusion of the arguments, the defendant was permitted to make a statement to the Court in which he took issue with some remarks of the public defenders arguing the case. The Court ordered defendant examined by the Department of Mental Health of Missouri to determine defendant's competence to waive counsel on appeal and ordered the case held under submission pending the report.

The report and evaluation of the defendant by the Department of Mental Health was filed with the Court, and the Court set aside the submission and appointed counsel to represent defendant. New briefs were filed and argument heard anew.

The complete record, consisting of the legal file and transcript, are before the Court. In order that this Court can properly review the death penalty imposed in this case and also consider the points advanced by the appointed counsel, it is necessary to set forth in some detail the evidence which led to the imposition of the ultimate penalty.

Approximately two weeks before July 27, 1985, the date of Nancy Allen's murder, defendant's friend, Patrick Stevens, was telling the defendant that he needed some money. "I [Wilkins] said, 'I know where we can get some money.' ... I told him exactly how we were going to do it and where we were going to do it." Defendant then described to Stevens a plan to rob Linda's Liquors, which was later communicated to two other confederates, Ray Thompson and Marjorie Filipiak. Linda's Liquors and Deli was owned and operated by Nancy and David Allen. It is a small convenience store located in the town of Avondale.

The four freely discussed the plan to rob Linda's or an alternative location during the next two weeks. Defendant also stated to the others that he would kill whoever was behind the counter because he wanted no witnesses. During the period before the crime, defendant sharpened his "butterfly" knife (a narrow-bladed martial arts weapon) with a diamond file. Defendant's girl friend, one of the four privy to the plan, attempted to dissuade him from his murderous plot. She had obtained some money from her parents and offered to run off with defendant but he declined.

On the evening of July 27, 1985, the four individuals were together. Defendant and his cohorts decided that the robbery of Linda's Liquors and Deli was on for that night. They all went to North Kansas City Hospital where they arrived about 10:15 p.m.

Leaving the other two, who were to secure taxis for after the robbery, defendant and Stevens left the hospital. To avoid detection they went through the woods to the deli. They carried a bag for carrying stolen merchandise. They arrived at a creek near the deli about 10:30 p.m. They observed the deli for a time because there were customers present. When the last customer had gone, they approached the deli. They took a towel out of the bag and wiped their shoes so that they would not

Page 412

leave mudprints. So that the counter person, Nancy Allen, would not be suspicious, they left the bag outside.

According to their prearranged plan, defendant ordered a sandwich while Stevens went to the rest room behind the counter. Noticing that Nancy Allen was not where Stevens could easily reach her, defendant asked her for additional lettuce. When she moved to comply with the defendant's request, Stevens rushed out of the rest room and grabbed her. Defendant went around the counter and thrust his knife into her back. Defendant said he was aiming at the kidneys, which he thought would be a fatal wound.

Nancy Allen fell face down onto the floor. However, she rolled into a spread-eagled position with her back on the floor. Stevens could not find everything that he wanted to take and could not operate the cash register. He asked defendant what to do. Nancy Allen replied, directing Stevens to what he sought but this caused defendant to stab his helpless victim three more times in her chest. Two of these pierced the heart. She continued to speak, begging for her life. Defendant silenced her with four stabs into the neck, one of which opened the carotid artery.

As Nancy Allen's pierced heart oozed its life's blood into the opened cavities of her lungs and onto the floor, defendant and Stevens gathered up cash and merchandise and left the store. Defendant wiped fingerprints off the door handle before leaving. They stuffed the stolen items in the bag outside and left. Nancy Allen lay dying on the floor.

The pair met their compatriots at the hospital. They paired up and left in separate taxis for the Greyhound Bus Depot. They paired up again in a different combination and went to their common summer hangout, Sherwood Lake. The cash register coin tray was thrown into the lake and they burned the stolen checks. A week later defendant wanted Stevens to lure "some guys" into the lake area so he, the defendant, could kill them. This action was aborted when a police officer came into the area and defendant threw the murder knife into the lake.

Street talk led the Metropolitan Major Case Squad to the defendant and his companions, and they were picked up by police on August 10th. Before taking a statement, Detective Ron Nichola advised defendant of his rights. Defendant's mother, Lt. Dave Rogers, and a juvenile officer were also present. An extremely incriminating statement was taken. The certification for 16-year-old Heath Wilkins' trial as an adult was obtained on August 15, 1985 as required by Section 211.071, RSMo Supp.1984.

The litany of Fifth Amendment rights was read again to defendant at his arraignment in circuit court on October 17, 1985. Appointed counsel Fred Duchardt of the Clay County Public Defender's Office represented Wilkins and entered a plea of "not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect excluding responsibility" or "not guilty" to all the charges against defendant. A mental examination was ordered and the results from the Western Missouri Mental Health Center were filed with the court on December 19, 1985. Defense counsel sought an additional examination, which was obtained privately at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The results of that examination became available in April of 1986.

A competency hearing was set for April 16th to inquire into the competency of the defendant at the time of his act as well as his present competency to stand trial. Unknown to the court but after long discussions with attorney Duchardt, defendant reversed his position. Defendant wanted to release counsel and proceed pro se, plead guilty, waive jury trial, and actively seek a sentence of death as his penalty. 1 The trial

Page 413

court first became fully aware of this turn of events at the April 16th competency hearing. Dr. Steven A. Mandracchia examined the defendant on November 27, 1985 before knowing that defendant intended to seek the death penalty. However, Dr. Mandracchia's opinions about defendant's competency were unequivocal. He said "that there was no evidence of mental disease or defect as defined by chapter 552 of the revised statutes of the state of Missouri." Later, after being advised of the defendant's intention to seek the death penalty, his opinion did not change. "I don't feel that he has any psychological or intellectual or cognitive limitations on his capabilities."

Dr. William S. Logan, M.D., Director of Law and Psychiatry at the Menninger Foundation, examined the defendant in March 1986 after the defendant had made his fateful decision. Attorney Duchardt...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 practice notes
  • Representing death-sentence appellants.
    • United States
    • Journal of Appellate Practice and Process Vol. 5 Nbr. 2, September 2003
    • September 22, 2003
    ...concurring and dissenting); State v. Powell, 798 S.W.2d 709, 718 (Mo. 1990) (Blackmar, J., concurring and dissenting); State v. Wilkins, 736 S.W.2d 409, 417 (Mo. 1987) (Blackmar, J., dissenting); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 501 (Mo. 1987) (Blackmar, J., concurring); State v. Lashley, 6......
1 books & journal articles
  • Representing death-sentence appellants.
    • United States
    • Journal of Appellate Practice and Process Vol. 5 Nbr. 2, September 2003
    • September 22, 2003
    ...concurring and dissenting); State v. Powell, 798 S.W.2d 709, 718 (Mo. 1990) (Blackmar, J., concurring and dissenting); State v. Wilkins, 736 S.W.2d 409, 417 (Mo. 1987) (Blackmar, J., dissenting); State v. Grubbs, 724 S.W.2d 494, 501 (Mo. 1987) (Blackmar, J., concurring); State v. Lashley, 6......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT