Boles v. State

Docket NumberS23A0171
Decision Date02 May 2023
PartiesBOLES v. THE STATE.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

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BOLES
v.
THE STATE.

No. S23A0171

Supreme Court of Georgia

May 2, 2023


MCMILLIAN, Justice.

Torres Boles appeals his convictions for felony murder and other charges in connection with the death of his three-year-old daughter, Andraia Boles.[1] He argues on appeal that the evidence

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was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence statements he made to "Ms. Middleton,"[2] a protective services investigator and case manager with the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services ("DFCS") and to Renee Sylvester, a private-sector counselor hired by DFCS in connection with the agency's investigation into placing Boles's other daughter into foster care.[3] Boles asserts that the two DFCS investigators were acting as agents of law enforcement when they interviewed him and their failure to give him warnings under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694) (1966), renders his statements inadmissible. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support Boles's convictions, there was no error in the admission of Boles's statement to Middleton, and any error in

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the admission of his statement to Sylvester was harmless, as such evidence was cumulative of other, properly admitted evidence. We therefore affirm.

1. The evidence at trial showed the following.[4] In February 2013, Boles and his wife, Candice Boles, lived in Hinesville with their two daughters: D. B., who was four years old, and Andraia, who was three. At 7:56 a.m. on the morning of February 27, 2013, Boles placed a call to 911 to report that Andraia was not breathing and had no pulse.

A first responder, who arrived on the scene a short time later, testified that when she entered the house, she saw Andraia lying on a blanket in the hallway just outside a bathroom. The carpet underneath the blanket was "soaking wet." The child had visible bruising to her face, and her head and eyes were swollen. Andraia was not breathing, had no pulse, and was cold to the touch. The first

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responder and her partner began CPR, while they waited for an ambulance to transport Andraia to the hospital. A paramedic who arrived with the ambulance testified that he observed "one big bruise" from Andraia's cheekbones to the top of her head and said that he was never able to detect any cardiac activity despite his efforts to revive the child.

The emergency room physician who treated Andraia at the hospital said that when the child arrived, she had obvious trauma, with a lot of swelling and discoloration of the head and face, and no vital signs. She was not moving, appeared lifeless, and had no spontaneous respiration or heart tones. During the physician's examination of the child, he discovered other injuries to her body, including to her buttocks. Andraia's body temperature was 84°, which the physician testified was "incompatible with life," and the child was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, Boles told Hinesville Police Department officers who had responded to his 911 call that, after he woke up that morning, he put Andraia on the toilet and then got ready for work.

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He said Andraia was fine when he left the house, but his wife later called him to say that Andraia was not breathing and that he should come home. Boles said that he found his wife with Andraia when he arrived home, and he could not understand what had happened.

At the house, police observed that the carpet was wet from the bathroom into the living room. When an officer asked Boles about the wet carpet, Boles replied that he had cleaned the carpet the night before. The officer said that Boles kept repeating, "[M]y life is over, my life is over." Inside the bathroom, police located blood splatter in the bathtub, and water and blood on the floor. There was a bowl containing crackers and cereal on the back of the toilet and a sippy cup. Blood samples taken from the bathtub, toilet, and bathroom door, and from a man's shoe found at the house were all later determined to be a match for Andraia's blood.

After receiving news that Andraia had died, the lead detective relayed that information to Boles and told him that hospital staff had discovered signs that the child had been abused. Boles admitted that he sometimes gave his children spankings but said that no one

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had given Andraia a spanking that morning. Boles agreed to a request from the lead detective to go to the police station, and on the way there, Boles told the lead detective that any scratch marks on Andraia's neck were self-inflicted,[5] and the scab on her bottom was from when they put Vaseline on her skin, along with a diaper, and the skin came off. He said he did not recall what initially caused the scab. The lead detective made audio recordings of his conversations with Boles at the house and in the car, and those recordings were played for the jury.[6]

While the lead detective obtained information from other officers, a different detective stayed with Boles in accordance with Hinesville Police Department policy not to leave visitors alone in the police station. The second detective did not ask Boles any questions, but he testified that Boles was "rambling a little bit" and said that

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he had made a mistake, but quickly changed it to "my life is a mistake."

After the lead detective returned, Boles was given a Miranda warning and formally interviewed. The audio recording of this interview was played for the jury. Boles told the lead detective that while D. B. attended pre-school and stayed with a neighbor after school until her parents got home from work, three-year-old Andraia was left at home alone during the day with cartoons playing on the television and with crackers, dry cereal, and a sippy cup with Kool-Aid or water. Boles said that he knew it was wrong to leave a child at home alone, but he explained that they could not afford day care for Andraia. Boles would come home at lunch to check on Andraia and clean up any messes she had made, but he did not stay home long or eat while he was there. He then returned in the evening about 5:30 p.m. in time to pick up D. B.

Boles said that on February 26, 2013, the day before he placed the 911 call, he followed his usual routine of waking up at 5:30 a.m. and putting Andraia on the toilet while he got ready for work. After

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checking on Andraia and waking his wife to tell her where Andraia was, he left for work, where he was required to arrive by 6:15 a.m. Boles came home at around 11:47 a.m. that day to check on Andraia and left again at around 12:15 p.m. to return to work. He did not notice any injuries to Andraia at that time, other than the scratches on her neck.

Boles again left work at 5:00 p.m. that day and returned home in time to pick up D. B. from the neighbor's house. When they entered their house, Boles discovered that Andraia had put extra toilet paper in the toilet, causing it to overflow and flood the bathroom and the carpet just outside the bathroom. He was "ticked" and put Andraia in the bathtub where she could watch him clean up the water. He began to scoop up the water on the bathroom floor and mop up the wet carpet with towels, discarding the scooped water and wringing the towels in the bathtub. He then decided to shampoo the carpet, but the shampooer apparently leaked, soaking the carpet into the living room. Boles initially told the lead detective that he did not physically discipline Andraia that night, but he made her

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stay awake until he finished cleaning, sending her to bed at 11:00 p.m. Boles said that the next morning, February 27, he woke up and put Andraia on the toilet before he went to work. His wife called later that day to say Andraia was not breathing, and he returned home. Boles said that he did not know what had happened, but he blamed himself because he guessed that she had slipped and hit her head on the wet floor.

However, Boles changed his story after the lead detective told him that Andraia's injuries were "severe," resulting from multiple impacts to her head and showed him pictures taken at the hospital of the child's body. Although Boles denied striking Andraia, he admitted that he was angry when he saw that she had caused the toilet to overflow. Boles said that he put Andraia in the bathtub and threw the water he scooped up from the floor on her. He also wrung the towels out near her "where she would feel the water." Boles would not let Andraia get out of the bathtub because he wanted her to see how much work it was to clean up the mess. When Andraia tried to get out, he would "smack" her hands away from the edge of

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the bathtub. He said that "a lot of times," she would slip and fall in the tub, "I guess, because I slapped her hands away." Boles said that when Andraia hit her head on the bathtub, he "didn't care" and "didn't think about how hard she hit the tub or whether she was hurt." He noticed that Andraia's face was swollen, but not as much as in the pictures, and she was slumped against the side of the bathtub, where he left her to spend the night when he went to bed. He also noticed red areas in the bathtub, but assumed the red color came from the dye in Andraia's pajamas.

The next morning, Boles found Andraia still in the bathtub, and she looked "alright" to him. He said her face was swollen "a lot," but she was able to open one eye, and she took a sippy cup from him. Boles said he "felt really bad about the whole thing," and he took off her wet clothes and put dry things on her. He then got ready and told his wife that Andraia was okay and added, "If you see red, it's from the clothes; it's not blood." The last time he saw Andraia before he left for work, she was slumped in the bathtub.

Boles also told the lead detective that the scab on Andraia's

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bottom was from a spanking he gave her with a belt months ago, although he said that the spanking did not break the skin....

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