Fowler v. Minehart, SD 32644.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation412 S.W.3d 917
Docket NumberNo. SD 32644.,SD 32644.
PartiesTimothy FOWLER, Petitioner/Respondent, v. Jerry MINEHART, Respondent/Appellant.
Decision Date06 November 2013

412 S.W.3d 917

Timothy FOWLER, Petitioner/Respondent,
Jerry MINEHART, Respondent/Appellant.

No. SD 32644.

Missouri Court of Appeals,
Southern District.

Nov. 6, 2013.

[412 S.W.3d 918]

Timothy Lynn Fowler, Petitioner/Respondent, pro se.

Devin S. Kirby, Doniphan, MO, for Respondent/Appellant.


Jerry Minehart (“Minehart”) appeals from an “Order/Judgment” granting Timothy Fowler (“Fowler”) 1 a “Full Order of Protection” against Minehart, pursuant to the Adult Abuse Act, after a bench trial. Minehart contends Fowler failed to prove all the elements of “stalking” as defined in sections 455.010–.090 2 to support the trial court's issuance of a Full Order of Protection. We agree and reverse.

Factual Procedural Background

Fowler filed an “Adult Abuse/Stalking Petition for Order of Protection” (“Petition”) on January 22, 2013, against Minehart. Fowler worked with Minehart's wife at the Dexter School District,3 and prior to the incident giving rise to the Petition, Fowler made a disciplinary complaint against Minehart's wife.

In his pre-printed Petition, Fowler selected the pre-printed options in boxes that alleged Minehart was “Stalking” and defined the relationship as “employees'

[412 S.W.3d 919]

sic] spouse.” He alleged the act occurred at the school campus, and marked the pre-printed boxes alleging that Minehart “knowingly and intentionally” “harassed [Fowler]” and “placed or attempted to place [Fowler] in apprehension of immediate physical harm[.]” However, Fowler did not check the box for the option to allege Minehart had “stalked” him. Fowler detailed the acts of “harassment” in his Petition by alleging he received a threatening phone call from Minehart on January 22, 2013, about his wife's job.

A hearing was held February 25, 2013, with respect to Fowler's Petition. The trial court had all parties and witnesses sworn in at the same time, and then the trial court proceeded to conduct the examination of witnesses, starting with Fowler.

Fowler told the trial court he sought the order of protection after he had a disciplinary action with Minehart's wife, which resulted in Mrs. Minehart meeting with administration. However, Mrs. Minehart was not fired, and at the time of trial, was still working for the Dexter School District and Fowler was still her assistant supervisor. After Mrs. Minehart informed her husband of the incident, Fowler received a phone call from Minehart in which Minehart told Fowler, “I'm going to come get you. I'm going to get even with you. I'll catch you off school campus and I'll take care of you.” Fowler testified Minehart did not threaten his life, but he felt Minehart was threatening bodily harm. Fowler reported the phone call to the local police department and Officer Kevin Moore (“Officer Moore”) came to the Dexter School District to make a report.

The trial court conducted an examination of Officer Moore. Officer Moore testified he and Fowler were in the Dexter School District office when Minehart arrived at the school cafeteria to discuss his wife's employment with her supervisor, Larry McKay (“McKay”).4 Officer Moore saw Minehart in the school cafeteria, which was located outside of the office, and asked Fowler if he would like to speak with Minehart or wanted Minehart to leave. Fowler told Officer Moore that he would like to speak with Minehart, but wanted Officer Moore present during the conversation. Officer Moore testified Fowler and Minehart then had a “heated conversation,” during which Minehart said, “[y]ou wait till you leave the school property” and pointed his finger at Fowler. Officer Moore then told Minehart that he needed to stop and leave—Minehart left.

The trial court then asked Officer Moore:

[Trial Court:] Based upon your experience in investigating matters such as these, do you believe that there was any reasonable basis at all for [Fowler] to consider any of the actions or statements of [Minehart] to be threats of physical violence?

[Officer Moore:] Yes, sir.

The trial court next addressed Minehart, and told him he would give Minehart a chance to “inquire or testify if you wish to do so[,]” but first noted the “testimony could form the basis of sufficient information to—for criminal charges to be brought.” The trial court went on to inform Minehart that anything he said on the record could be used “for any lawful purpose by the prosecuting attorney or anyone else if such charges are brought.” The trial court also informed Minehart he could “consent to the order being entered”

[412 S.W.3d 920

without agreeing he did any of the things Fowler alleged.

Minehart did not want to consent to the order being entered, and the trial court proceeded to examine Minehart. First, the trial court stated:

[Trial Court:] ... So essentially, you're telling me you want to testify and you want to tell me, first, that these people are lying?

[Minehart:] No sir. I'd like to tell you what I said.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court issued its Order/Judgment entering a Full Order of Protection against Minehart. The Full Order of Protection noted Minehart's relationship to Fowler as specified on the Petition was “CO WORKER'S SPOUSE.” This appeal followed.

Minehart contends the trial court erred in issuing the Full Order of Protection because Fowler “failed to prove the essential elements of ‘stalking’ ... in that there was no evidence that [Minehart] initiated ‘repeated’ contact with [Fowler].” The sole issue for our determination is whether there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's Order/Judgment entering the Full Order of Protection against Minehart.

Standard of Review

This Court has acknowledged, on more than one occasion, the harm that can result in abusing the Adult Abuse Act and its provisions, including the stigma that may attach to an individual labeled a “stalker.” 5See Leaverton v. Lasica, 101 S.W.3d 908, 912 (Mo.App.S.D.2003); Dennis v. Henley, 314 S.W.3d 786, 790 (Mo.App.S.D.2010); Skovira v. Talley, 369 S.W.3d 780, 781 (Mo.App.S.D.2012); Patterson v. Pilot, 399 S.W.3d 889, 897 (Mo.App.S.D.2013). Due to this “real harm[,] ... trial courts must exercise great care to ensure that sufficient evidence exists to support all elements of the statute before entering a full order of protection.” Skovira, 369 S.W.3d at 781 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Our review of a court-tried case is governed by Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). Schwalm v. Schwalm, 217 S.W.3d 335, 336 (Mo.App.E.D.2007). We will uphold the trial court's judgment as long as it is supported by substantial evidence, it is not against the weight of the evidence, and it does not erroneously declare or apply the law. Id. “Substantial evidence has been defined as competent evidence from which the trier of fact could reasonably decide the case.” Towell v. Steger, 154 S.W.3d 471, 474 (Mo.App.S.D.2005). In reviewing the trial court's judgment, we view all facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the judgment and defer to the trial...

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13 cases
  • Lawyer v. Fino
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • May 6, 2015
    ...(noting that family members do not need to prove stalking in order to obtain a full order of protection), with Fowler v. Minehart , 412 S.W.3d 917, 921 (Mo.App.S.D.2013) (noting that a petitioner who did not allege the defendant was a family or household member was limited to seeking an ord......
  • Gimlen v. Rivero
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • November 29, 2016
    ...the trial court's determination of credibility. Id . ; Binggeli v. Hammond , 300 S.W.3d 621, 623 (Mo.App.W.D.2010).Fowler v. Minehart , 412 S.W.3d 917, 920 (Mo.App. S.D. 2013). "[W]e presume the trial court's judgment is correct, and [the appellant] bears the burden of proving it erroneous.......
  • L.M.D. v. Gauert
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • April 6, 2021
    ...from him and leave him alone.Furthermore, L.M.D. initiated the conversation with Gauert in the hardware store. In Fowler v. Minehart , 412 S.W.3d 917, 918 (Mo. App. S.D. 2013), Fowler petitioned for a full order of protection against Minehart. Fowler worked with Minehart's wife at a school,......
  • Smith v. McAdams
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • February 17, 2015
    ...violence by a present or former family or household member, or (2) any person who has been the victim of stalking.”Fowler v. Minehart, 412 S.W.3d 917, 921 (Mo.App.S.D.2013).Here, Appellant contends that she is entitled to relief under § 455.020 because she was subjected to domestic abuse by......
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