Drane v. State, No. 45S04-0611-CR-477.

Docket NºNo. 45S04-0611-CR-477.
Citation867 N.E.2d 144
Case DateMay 29, 2007
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana
867 N.E.2d 144
Ronnie DRANE, Appellant (Defendant Below),
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff Below).
No. 45S04-0611-CR-477.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
May 29, 2007.

P. Jeffrey Schlesinger, Appellate Public Defender, Crown Point, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, Ryan D. Johanningsmeier, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

On Petition To Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 45A04-0503-CR-164

SHEPARD, Chief Justice.


At the conclusion of a bench trial, the court found appellant Ronnie Drane guilty for the rape and murder of Tomorra "Precious" Taylor and sentenced him to a combined

867 N.E.2d 145

total of eighty-five years. The Court of Appeals reversed for insufficient evidence. Having granted transfer, we affirm the trial court.

Facts and Procedural History

Tomorra "Precious" Taylor and her cousin Adrian Ross spent the afternoon of May 27, 2002, together visiting friends and family in Gary, Indiana. They stopped at Steve Chatfield's home, and Taylor borrowed Chatfield's phone to call Ronnie Drane. (State's Ex. 3, 5; Tr. at 190-94.) Taylor later stopped at a gas station to make a telephone call, and shortly after she completed the call, a man driving a "silver van" with "nice rims" arrived. (Tr. at 107.) Taylor left Ross and climbed into the passenger seat of the van to talk to the male driver. (Id. at 108.) Taylor shortly returned to her car, and she and Ross continued visiting friends and family. (Id. at 111.)

At about 8 p.m., Taylor and Ross went to the home of Taylor's foster mother, Chinese Lofton. (Id. at 111-12.) Taylor placed several more telephone calls to Drane and made arrangements to meet him that night. (Id. at 435-37.) Taylor's last conversation with Drane was at 9:47 p.m.; shortly thereafter, Taylor left Lofton's home alone. (Id. at 39, 44-46; State's Ex. 5.)

Between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m., off-duty Gary Police Corporal John Jones noticed a "gray or silver mini-van" parked in M.C. Bennett Park near the barbecue shelters. (Tr. at 289-95, 301.) The van stood out because the park closed after sunset, and park police were supposed to make sure the park was empty. (Id. at 289.) Corporal Jones testified that the van had "elongated taillights," or in other words, lights "[o]n the rear driver and passenger side [that] start pretty much at the top and go down to almost the bumper."1 (Id. at 291.) Two to three hours later, on his way home, Corporal Jones saw what appeared to be the same van parked in the same spot. (Id. at 290.)

At about 9 a.m. the next morning, a man collecting cans in the park found Taylor's body in a shelter close to the location where Corporal Jones saw the van the previous night. (Id. at 21, 75-77, 291-93.) Taylor's body was face down, and her legs were spread open. (Id. at 22, 355-56; State's Ex. 6, 7.) Her blue jean skirt was pulled up so that her genitalia were visible. (Tr. at 22, 355-56; State's Ex. 6, 7.) Her shoes were strewn about a nearby picnic table. (Tr. at 22, 355-56; State's Ex. 6, 7, 53.) Taylor had several injuries, including a bruised and lacerated lower lip, abrasions on her ear, left jaw, and upper back, a fractured bone in her neck, and a large bruise on her upper right thigh. (Tr. at 143-48, 171-73.) The coroner concluded strangulation was the cause of death. (Id. at 139.)

Detectives found Drane after they traced phone calls Taylor made and received on the night she was killed. (Id. at 190-94.) Those calls first led them to Tiffany Copeland's home. (Id.) Detectives soon learned Drane lived with Copeland and used a cellular phone registered in Copeland's name. (Id. at 360, 365, 435.) Copeland's home was about one mile from the park where Taylor's body was discovered. (Id. at 369.) While detectives were speaking with Copeland, they noticed a silver van at the house next door, seemingly a match with the descriptions given by Corporal Jones and Ross. (Id. at 195, 199-200, 231-32.) The van was registered in

867 N.E.2d 146

Copeland's name, but driven by Drane. (Id. at 369, 448.)

When Corporal Jones was shown pictures of Copeland's van at trial, he testified that the van in the pictures was likely the same van he saw in the park on the night of Taylor's murder.2 Similarly, when Ross viewed pictures of Copeland's van at trial, she testified that the van looked like the same van that she and Taylor encountered at the gas station on the afternoon preceding Taylor's murder.3

Tests of DNA samples found on vaginal cervical swabs and external genital swabs obtained from Taylor's body revealed that Drane could not be excluded as a contributing source. (Id. at 317, 326.) In fact, Drane admitted during his case-in-chief that he had unprotected sexual intercourse with Taylor on the night of her murder. (Id. at 440-41.) He claimed, however, that he and Taylor had consensual sex at his home, that she left shortly after midnight, and that he never saw her again. (Id. at 440-44.)

The State charged Drane with murder, murder in the perpetration of rape, and rape. The trial court found him guilty on all counts, merged the first two counts, and sentenced Drane to sixty-five years for murder and twenty years for rape, to be served consecutively. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding the State did not present sufficient evidence to support the murder and rape convictions. Drane v. State, No. 45A04-0503-CR-164, slip op., 849 N.E.2d...

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1144 practice notes
  • Brewington v. State, No. 15S01–1405–CR–309.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • July 31, 2014
    ...unless no reasonable factfinder could find the necessary elements to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt. E.g., Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind.2007). But here, as further discussed below, constitutional protection for Defendant's speech hinges on state-of-mind issues—particul......
  • Camm v. State, No. 87S00-0612-CR-499.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 26, 2009
    ...N.E.2d 242, 249 (Ind.2007); it is "not necessary that the evidence overcome every reasonable hypothesis of innocence," Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 147 (Ind. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted); and the reviewing court considers the evidence as presented at trial, including that whi......
  • Shorter v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 19A-CR-2904
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 6, 2020
    ...reasonable inferences supporting the verdict, and we will neither assess witness credibility nor reweigh the evidence. Drane v. State , 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). We will affirm unless no reasonable factfinder could find the elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.D......
  • Perryman v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 06A01-1605-CR-1049
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 7, 2017
    ...to meet this burden, we consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences from it supporting the judgment. Drane v. State , 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). We neither weigh the evidence nor assess witness credibility. Id. We affirm if a reasonable jury could have found the def......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1141 cases
  • Brewington v. State, No. 15S01–1405–CR–309.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • July 31, 2014
    ...unless no reasonable factfinder could find the necessary elements to have been proven beyond reasonable doubt. E.g., Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind.2007). But here, as further discussed below, constitutional protection for Defendant's speech hinges on state-of-mind issues—particul......
  • Camm v. State, No. 87S00-0612-CR-499.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 26, 2009
    ...N.E.2d 242, 249 (Ind.2007); it is "not necessary that the evidence overcome every reasonable hypothesis of innocence," Drane v. State, 867 N.E.2d 144, 147 (Ind. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted); and the reviewing court considers the evidence as presented at trial, including that whi......
  • Shorter v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 19A-CR-2904
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 6, 2020
    ...reasonable inferences supporting the verdict, and we will neither assess witness credibility nor reweigh the evidence. Drane v. State , 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). We will affirm unless no reasonable factfinder could find the elements of the crime proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.D......
  • Perryman v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 06A01-1605-CR-1049
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 7, 2017
    ...to meet this burden, we consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences from it supporting the judgment. Drane v. State , 867 N.E.2d 144, 146 (Ind. 2007). We neither weigh the evidence nor assess witness credibility. Id. We affirm if a reasonable jury could have found the def......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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