M.D.L. v. S.C.E., ED 97992.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Citation391 S.W.3d 525
Docket NumberNo. ED 97992.,ED 97992.
PartiesM.D.L., Respondent, v. S.C.E., Appellant.
Decision Date13 February 2013

391 S.W.3d 525

M.D.L., Respondent,
S.C.E., Appellant.

No. ED 97992.

Missouri Court of Appeals,
Eastern District,
Division Four.

Feb. 13, 2013.

[391 S.W.3d 527]

S.C.E., pro se.

M.D.L., pro se.


S.C.E. (“Appellant”) appeals from the trial court's judgment granting a full order of protection to M.D.L. (“Respondent”), pursuant to Section 455.040. 1 Appellant alleges that the trial court erred in granting the full order of protection because there was no substantial evidence to support a finding of stalking and abuse. Having reviewed the record, we find substantial evidence exists to support the trial court's judgment on the basis of abuse. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Factual and Procedural History

Viewed the light most favorable to the judgment, the evidence introduced at trial is as follows. Appellant and Respondent were involved in a tumultuous romantic relationship for eight and a half years, but never married. One child was born of the relationship.

On May 1, 2011, Respondent broke up with Appellant but could not move out of the home they shared until the end of the month. Appellant began going out at night, getting drunk, and picking fights with Respondent when he got home. Respondent stated that Appellant would pound on the bedroom door where she locked herself inside with their son.

On May 24, 2011, Appellant asked Respondent to have dinner with him. After dinner, the parties began fighting and Appellant told Respondent that he had drugged her. The next day Respondent took a home drug test, which tested positive for cocaine. She then checked herself into a hospital, where she tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. Respondent filed a petition for an adult order of protection related to this incident, but the case was dismissed without prejudice by agreement of the parties.

After Respondent moved out, the parties began exchanging their son at the police station. Because the parties lived near each other, they both drove home in the same direction from the police station. On several occasions, Appellant followed Respondent while driving erratically behind her. Appellant would at times cut in front of Respondent, get over, and then cut back in front of her. During one of these driving incidents, Respondent called 911 and returned to the police station.

On November 27, 2011, Appellant slashed the tires of Respondent's boyfriend's car, which was parked in the driveway of her home.

Respondent filed a petition for an adult order of protection on December 13, 2011. The petition alleged that Appellant stalked

[391 S.W.3d 528]

and harassed Respondent, followed her from place to place, caused or attempted to cause her physical harm, placed or attempted to place her in apprehension of immediate physical harm, and threatened to do all of the above. Respondent expressed an immediate and present danger of abuse or stalking because she feared Appellant would come to her house and kill her. Respondent claimed that Appellant was mentally unstable, had threatened to kill her before, and had previously held her down and choked her. The trial court issued an ex parte order of protection the same day Respondent filed her petition.

On January 12, 2012, a bench trial was held on Respondent's petition for a full order of protection. The parties, both licensed attorneys, represented themselves at trial and testified on their own behalf. In addition to the above incidents, Respondent testified that Appellant threatened her reputation and threatened by e-mail to file numerous motions against her. In reference to one specific e-mail correspondence, Respondent testified that she viewed the entire e-mail as a general threat. Respondent testified that she felt threatened by everything Respondent did and everything he said. However, in her testimony Respondent acknowledged that Appellant had not threatened her with any physical harm since the couple separated.

Respondent also testified to prior acts of violence committed by Appellant. Respondent stated that, on unspecified dates, Appellant had punched her in face, pulled a gun on her, tried to run her off road, tried to run her over with his car, kicked her, hit her, and given her a black eye. In 2005 or 2006, Appellant held her down by the neck and head while telling her he was going to kill her. Additionally, Appellant occasionally deserted her without any transportation and locked her out of the home in the cold.

Appellant denied slashing Respondent's boyfriend's tires, claiming that he was out with friends at the time of the incident. He also testified that he takes a different route home from the police station after exchanging their child in order to avoid Respondent. Appellant further denied drugging Respondent and instead claimed that he walked in on her smoking cocaine on May 22, 2011. He stated that he had witnesses who had seen her take drugs in the past, which is why he did not want to practice law with her anymore.

After the close of evidence, the trial court found that Respondent proved the allegations of abuse and stalking and entered a full order of protection against Appellant. The order was effective until January 11, 2013, and was automatically renewed for an additional year. This appeal follows.

Points on Appeal

Appellant presents two points on appeal.2 Appellant first argues that the trial court erred in entering a full order of protection against him because there was

[391 S.W.3d 529]

no substantial evidence to support a finding of stalking. In his second point on appeal, Appellant argues that the trial court erred in entering a full order of protection against him because there was no substantial evidence to support a finding that Respondent suffered emotional distress.

Standard of Review

In reviewing full orders of protection, the judgment of the trial court will be sustained by the reviewing court unless there is no substantial evidence to support it, it is against the weight of the evidence, it erroneously declares the law, or it erroneously applies the law. Clark v. Wuebbeling, 217 S.W.3d 352, 354 (Mo.App. E.D.2007)(citing Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976)). “Substantial evidence is competent evidence from which the trier of fact could reasonably decide the case.” Vinson v. Adams, 188 S.W.3d 461, 464 (Mo.App. E.D.2006). We defer to the trial court's credibility determinations and view all facts and any inferences therefrom favorably to the judgment. Id. “Because the trial judge is in...

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  • A.O. v. V.O.
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • February 11, 2020
    ...or unwanted contact." Id. "An activity with a legitimate purpose is one that is lawful or is allowed." M.D.L. v. S.C.E. , 391 S.W.3d 525, 529 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013) (citing C.B. v. Buchheit , 254 S.W.3d 207, 209 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008) ). In the context of stalking, conduct only causes "alarm" i......
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    ...included pointing a gun at the respondent, was insufficient to demonstrate subjective fear of physical harm); M.D.L. v. S.C.E. , 391 S.W.3d 525, 530 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013) (finding insufficient evidence of stalking in the absence of testimony that the appellant's conduct caused the respondent......
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    • December 26, 2017
    ...the same circumstances also would have feared physical harm. Appellant asserts that in support, the trial court cited M.D.L. v. S.C.E., 391 S.W.3d 525 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013), an action under the Adult Abuse Act (AAA), Sections 455.010 through 455.090. Appellant argues actions under the AAA ge......
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