Commonwealth v. Tucker

Decision Date08 March 2023
Docket Number1297 MDA 2021,J-S28032-22
CourtPennsylvania Superior Court


Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence Entered September 14, 2021 In the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-06-CR-0006044-2017




Appellant Christopher Ryan Tucker, appeals from the judgment of sentence entered in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas following his jury trial convictions for first-degree murder, third-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of possessing instruments of crime.[1]We affirm.

In its opinion, the trial court set forth the relevant facts of this case as follows:

The Commonwealth presented evidence at trial that the victim Tara Marie Serino, was last seen shortly after 12:30 A.M. on October 30, 2017, when she left her residence in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with [Appellant]. The next day, the victim's father, Fred Serino, contacted the Pennsylvania State Police Hamburg Barracks ("PSP- Hamburg"), after she failed to contact him as previously arranged. Mr. Serino requested they perform a welfare check on the victim at [Appellant's] residence at 282 Roth Road, Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Troopers Jordan Hoffman and Ryan Zimmerman of PSP- Hamburg, responded to [Appellant's] residence [and] were unable to contact anyone inside the residence.
The following day, on November 1, 2017, [Appellant's] father appeared at [the] victim's father's house with the victim's purse, identification, medication, and wallet, which he indicated he retrieved from [Appellant's] residence. [Appellant's] father provided the victim's father with the victim's personal items. While at the Serino residence, [Appellant's] father indicated that his son had been committed to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation in the Urbana, Illinois area.
That same day, [the] victim's father reported her missing to his local police department, the Upper Macungie Police Department, and provided them with the victim's personal items. At that time, Detective Adam Miller of the Upper Macungie Police Department performed a presumptive blood test on what appeared to be a bloodstain on the victim's purse, receiving a positive indication for blood. Detective Miller confirmed that [Appellant] had been encountered attempting to break into a piece of farm equipment near a truck stop in Illinois and that the Iroquois County Sheriff's Department transported him to Presence Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. The victim was not located in the area. Detective Miller requested the Urbana, Illinois Police Department to respond to Presence Hospital to speak with [Appellant] to obtain information as to the victim's whereabouts. Detective Miller briefed Investigator Doug Pipkins of the Urbana Police Department as to the reason for his request.
Dr. Timothy Roberts was [Appellant's] treating psychiatrist and met with [Appellant] the morning of November 1. Dr. Roberts testified that while [Appellant] was a [l]ittle sleepy at times, he was not "out of it" and he was cooperative and capable of answering questions. Dr. Roberts indicated that [Appellant] had slept the night prior to his interaction with police. Dr. Roberts stated that [Appellant] was capable of giving him a medical history and information about his medication, as well as answering questions regarding that history.
While [Appellant] raised that his medication was such that he could not understand what was happening, Dr. Roberts indicated that he was not prescribed any medication that would have precluded him from understanding what was going on, and that he was able to consent to the administration of medication. Dr. Roberts indicated that none of the dosages of the medications prescribed or given to [Appellant] would have sedated him to the point of an inability to communicate with others, including law enforcement officers. Dr. Roberts stated that [Appellant] had the ability to consent to medication. Dr. Roberts stated that [Appellant] signed a voluntary admission form, admitting himself to Presence Hospital.
Officer Darin McCartney, Officer Collin Dedecker and his Field Training Officer Ingram of the Urbana Police Department responded to Presence Hospital [to] assist with the missing person investigation involving the victim. They arrived at the hospital at 2:18 P.M., Central Time, November 1, 2017. There, they located [Appellant]. Officers Dedecker, Ingram and McCartney met with [Appellant] in a conference room on the fifth floor of the hospital.
The conference room contained a round table, chairs, and windows. [Appellant] was present with his social worker, Cymi Nappy, who left only once while Officers Dedecker, Ingram and McCartney met with him. Officer Dedecker informed [Appellant] that they had been referred an investigation to search for a missing person from a Pennsylvania police department. [Appellant] indicated to Officer Dedecker that he knew the victim, that they previously dated, but that he did not know her whereabouts and hadn't seen her for three weeks. Officer Dedecker also asked [Appellant] about some marks on his hands, and [Appellant] indicated he received these marks at work.
During the time Officer Dedecker spent with him, [Appellant] was not in handcuffs, was never told he was under arrest, and was informed that the police were simply investigating an individual's disappearance. [Appellant] was willing to speak with Officer Dedecker, he never indicated that he did not wish to answer questions, he appeared to understand Officer Dedecker's questions, and he never indicated that he did not understand something.
Before entering the conference room, Officer McCartney was told a woman was reported missing by her father, she was possibly last seen with [Appellant], and that some of her personal belongings may have been found at [Appellant's] residence. At this point, Officer McCartney had no information that the woman may have been harmed. Upon entering the conference room, Officer McCartney spoke to [Appellant]. He asked for his biographical information, which [Appellant] provided. [Appellant] was willing to speak with Officer McCartney and did not appear to have any difficulty understanding his questions. Officer McCartney informed [Appellant] they were meeting because an individual who may have been [Appellant's] acquaintance or girlfriend was reported missing. Officer McCartney asked [Appellant] if he knew the victim. [Appellant] indicated that he did and that they had been dating approximately three months. Officer McCartney asked [Appellant] if he knew the victim's location. [Appellant] responded that he had an argument with her several days earlier and that after the argument, he left in his truck and drove toward Illinois. [Appellant] had originally indicated that he last saw the victim three weeks prior, but upon stating such, his social worker interjected that [Appellant] had indicated previously to her it may have only been several days prior. [Appellant] acknowledged this as true.
Officer McCartney also asked about the injuries to his hands, which [Appellant] first indicated he sustained from doing "sneak attacks" near a rest stop in Illinois, but later indicated he sustained doing martial arts. Officer McCartney inquired as to whether [Appellant] was concerned regarding the victim's whereabouts, and he indicated he was not. Detective McCartney inquired as to whether [Appellant] harmed the victim, and he indicated he did not. Officer McCartney met with [Appellant] for a total of approximately twenty minutes. During this time, [Appellant] did not indicate that he was unwilling to talk to the police. He never exhibited any signs of discomfort. He never requested to use the restroom. He was provided with water to drink. The conference room in which they met was not locked and [Appellant] was free to get up and walk away.
Officer McCartney testified that, in his eleven years with the Urbana Police Department, he has been involved in multiple missing person investigations. He indicated that many of these investigations result in a finding of no harm or foul play, especially when it involves college aged individuals. However, he also indicated that, in missing person investigations, "time is of the essence," because the sooner a person can be located, the sooner they may be spared harm, or their life may be saved. At the time he spoke with [Appellant], he testified that he had no reason to believe the victim had been harmed or killed or that there was anything criminal to investigate. After meeting with [Appellant], Officer McCartney spoke with a sergeant at the Urbana Police [D]epartment to request assistance in the investigation.
A short time thereafter, Investigators Doug Pipkins and Richard Coleman arrived at the hospital. [Appellant] was still in the conference room with his social worker. Officer McCartney was also still present, but Officers Dedecker and Ingram had left. Officer McCartney briefly spoke with Investigator Pipkins to explain what [Appellant] had stated, and then Officer McCartney, Investigator Pipkins and Investigator Coleman entered the conference room. As before, at the time Officer McCartney and Investigators Pipkins and Coleman entered the conference room, [Appellant] was not under arrest, was not physically detained in any way and indicated he was willing to speak with investigators. Prior to entering the conference room, Investigators Pipkins and Coleman spoke with a nurse at the hospital who advised that [Appellant] would be "fine" to speak with the police. Officer McCartney was in police uniform,

To continue reading

Request your trial

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