Mccray v. State Of Ala., CR-06-0360

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtWINDOM.
PartiesHeath Lavon McCray v. State of Alabama
Docket NumberCR-06-0360
Decision Date17 December 2010

Heath Lavon McCray
State of Alabama



Date: December 17, 2010

Appeal from Houston Circuit Court

WINDOM, Judge.

Heath Lavon McCray appeals his capital-murder conviction and sentence of death. McCray was convicted of murder made capital because it was committed during the course of a burglary, see § 13A-5-4 0 (a) (4), Ala. Code 1975. After the

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penalty phase of the trial, see §§ 13A-5-45 and-46, Ala. Code 1975, the jury unanimously recommended that McCray be sentenced to death. After receiving a presentence report and conducting a separate sentencing hearing, see § 13A-5-47, Ala. Code 1975, the trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced McCray to death.

The evidence adduced at trial indicated the following. On Wednesday, August 10, 2005, Brandy Jean Bachelder's body was found in her mobile home in the Cayman Bay Trailer Park in Dothan. Testimony indicated that Bachelder had been living with McCray for approximately a year and a half before her death, but that on Thursday, August 4, 2005, Bachelder had asked McCray to move out of the mobile home.

Rolande Dean, Bachelder's mother, testified that she had visited her daughter at her mobile home on Thursday, August 4, 2005, at which time Bachelder told McCray that he had to leave. According to Dean, McCray left with a bag of clothing. After McCray left, Bachelder left the mobile home for a short time and returned with two new door knobs to replace the door knobs on the front and back doors of the mobile home. Dean said that she noticed that night that Bachelder and McCray

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were interacting differently than they had previously and that it appeared as if Bachelder was afraid of McCray.

Dean testified that she spoke with Bachelder on the telephone the next day, as well as on Saturday and Sunday, and that she saw Bachelder the morning of Monday, August 8, 2005, before Bachelder took her son to school and then went to work at the local Family Dollar discount store. Dean also said that she spoke with Bachelder during the day on Monday while Bachelder was at work. She tried telephoning Bachelder Monday night, Tuesday during the day, and Tuesday night, but was unable to reach her. On Wednesday, August 10, 2005, Dean went to the Family Dollar store to look for Bachelder, who was supposed to work that day, but she was not there. Dean then went to Bachelder's mobile home, saw blood on the front door, and notified the manager of the trailer park, who notified police.

Tim Miller, an officer with the Dothan Police Department, testified that on August 10, 2005, he went to the Cayman Bay Trailer Park and spoke with the manager and with Dean, who was visibly upset. Officer Miller saw bloodstains on the front

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door, which was locked, 1 so he used a cement block he found on the ground to force the front door open. Immediately upon the door opening, Officer Miller saw "blood everywhere." (R. 401.) Miller stated there was blood all over the living-room floor and all over the couch in the living room, and that there was a blood trail through the kitchen and down the hallway. The blood trail appeared to be from someone being dragged; he found Bachelder's body lying in the hallway. After finding her body, Officer Miller secured the scene, and several other police officers and paramedics arrived. There did not appear to be any lights on in the mobile home when he entered and he saw footprints in the blood trail leading down the hallway. A dog was shut inside one of the bedrooms and was later removed from the scene.

The State's theory of the case was that two days before Bachelder's body was found, while Bachelder was at work, McCray broke into Bachelder's mobile home using a screwdriver. McCray then locked Bachelder's dog in a bedroom and stripped down to his underwear to avoid contaminating his clothing. McCray then unscrewed all the light bulbs in the mobile home

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so that it would be dark inside when Bachelder got home and removed the batteries from the cordless telephone so she could not call for help. After disabling the lights and telephone, McCray waited for Bachelder to arrive home, at which point he brutally attacked her with a butcher knife as revenge for ending their relationship. McCray covered his hands with a pair of socks to avoid leaving his fingerprints at the scene and following the attack washed the blood off his body in the bathtub, got dressed, and fled the scene.

Mike Etress, a corporal with the criminal investigations division of the Dothan Police Department, was in charge of the investigation and went to the scene the day Bachelder was found. He testified that there was a large amount of blood throughout Bachelder's mobile home and that various items in the mobile home were strewn about indicating that a struggle had taken place. In addition, Cpl. Etress noticed there were several footprints in the blood throughout the mobile home. The floor of the mobile home had a type of tile that is secured with adhesive, so Cpl. Etress was able to remove 12 of the tiles containing the footprints and secure them as evidence. He also took several samples of the blood from

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various locations in the mobile home. There were no lights on in the mobile home when he arrived, and, when he checked the lights, he discovered that all but one of the light bulbs in the mobile home had been unscrewed to stop them from working. The only working light bulb in the mobile home was in the hood over the oven. Cpl. Etress collected the light bulbs in the mobile home as evidence. He also found a pair of socks on the living-room floor lying in blood, a Pepsi brand soda bottle lying in blood on the living-room floor, a cordless telephone with the batteries removed lying on the living-room floor, and a butcher knife--believed to be the murder weapon--lying on the sofa, all of which were collected and secured as evidence. One of the drawers in the kitchen, which contained kitchen utensils, was open and there was a pool of blood in it. Blood was also found in the bathroom, but the blood in the bathroom appeared to be diluted, as if someone had tried to wash off blood in the bathtub. No box cutter was found in the mobile home.2

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Cpl. Etress described the condition of Bachelder's body, both when he arrived at the scene and when he attended the autopsy the following day. Bachelder had a plastic bag secured tightly around her head; a black dog leash was looped into a noose around her neck. Bachelder's shorts were down around her ankles, her underwear had been torn in half, and she was covered in blood. He observed several stab wounds to Bachelder's neck and chest, as well as several cuts on her fingers and a deep wound between her forefinger and thumb that went almost to the bone. During the autopsy, Cpl. Etress again saw the wounds to Bachelder's neck, which appeared consistent in width with the butcher knife that had been found on the sofa. He also saw a knife wound near Bachelder's elbow that went completely through her arm. That wound was also consistent in width to the butcher knife. Cpl. Etress further described the numerous wounds to Bachelder's hands as defensive wounds that occurred when Bachelder "had grabbed the knife while she was being stabbed." (R. 594.) He also saw several puncture wounds to Bachelder's chest, including one to her left breast that went "completely through" the breast.

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(R. 595.) The width of that wound was consistent with the width of the butcher knife found at the scene.

Dr. Stephen Boudreau, a medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences ("DFS"), testified that he was present when the autopsy was performed on Bachelder on August 11, 2005.3 Bachelder had several wounds to her hands--a deep gash on her right hand at the base of her thumb, a continuous gash across the middle of three of the fingers on her left hand, and a gash along the side of her left hand-all of which, Dr. Boudreau said, would have caused Bachelder pain and severe bleeding. The gash across the fingers on Bachelder's left hand was most likely caused by Bachelder grabbing a sharp object. In addition, Bachelder had wounds to her arms — one large stab wound to her left elbow that began on the top of the elbow and went completely through to the underside of the upper part of the arm, as well as a deep cut on her forearm Both arm wounds were consistent with having been caused by the butcher knife found at the scene and would also have caused pain and severe bleeding Bachelder had two

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deep stab wounds and several superficial cuts on her neck, all of which were consistent with having been caused by the butcher knife at the scene and would have caused pain and severe bleeding. One of the deep stab wounds on the right side of the neck actually cut Bachelder's carotid artery, which would have caused blood to "spurt" in all directions. (R. 759.) Based on the location and direction of the wounds on Bachelder's neck, they were all inflicted separately. Bachelder also had wounds to her breast and genitals. Specifically, Bachelder suffered a stab wound to her left breast that began on the underside of the breast and penetrated through the entire breast tissue, ending on the top part of the breast. This wound was at least four inches long and was also consistent with having been caused by the butcher knife...

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