Riggins v. State, No. 2261

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtKENNEY.
Citation155 Md. App. 181,843 A.2d 115
PartiesPaul Stephen RIGGINS, Jr. v. STATE of Maryland.
Docket NumberNo. 2261
Decision Date26 February 2004

843 A.2d 115
155 Md.
App. 181

Paul Stephen RIGGINS, Jr.
v.
STATE of Maryland

No. 2261, Sept. Term, 2001.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

February 26, 2004.


843 A.2d 118
Stacy W. McCormack (Stephen E. Harris, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellant

Diane E. Keller (J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellee.

Panel: JAMES R. EYLER, SONNER, and KENNEY, JJ.

843 A.2d 116

843 A.2d 117
KENNEY, Judge

On July 20, 2001, appellant, Paul Stephen Riggins, Jr., was convicted by a jury sitting in the Circuit Court for Howard County of the first degree murder of his wife, Nancy Riggins (the "victim"). On November 29, 2001, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In this appeal, appellant poses three questions for our review, which we have reordered and reworded slightly:

I. Did the trial court err in not granting a mistrial after a witness made a statement bolstering another witness' reputation for truthfulness?

II. Was there legally sufficient evidence to sustain appellant's conviction for first degree murder absent a body or other physical evidence indicating that a murder occurred?

III. Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury that it could not convict the appellant of murder based solely on statements he made to others absent some corroboration of the corpus delicti of the crime?

For the reasons set out below, we shall affirm the decision of the circuit court.

GENERAL FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Case Begins

According to appellant, at approximately 6:00 a.m. on the morning of July 2, 1996, he returned to his home in Howard County after working the night shift as a "yard jockey" at the Patapsco Waste Water Treatment Plant ("PWWTP") in Baltimore City.1 He noticed that the front door of the house was slightly ajar. At approximately 7:00 a.m., appellant found his five-year-old daughter in her bedroom.2 The victim was not in the house. Appellant took his daughter to day care, returned home, vacuumed the inside of the minivan, loaned a power washer to his neighbor, informed his neighbor that the victim had left him, and fell asleep for the remainder of the day. Later, a friend watched appellant's daughter so that appellant could go to work.

843 A.2d 119
On July 3, 1996, appellant called 911 and reported the victim missing. Despite extensive attempts to locate the victim, including checking all motor vehicle administration records throughout the United States and tracking her name, date of birth, and social security number, the victim was never located. After a four-year investigation by the Howard County Police Department ("HCPD"), appellant was arrested on September 21, 2000, and charged with first degree murder.

The Discovery of the Ongoing Affair

In 1992, Amy Cole, then a minor,3 began babysitting appellant's daughter. Subsequently, appellant and Cole began a sexual relationship. According to Cole, she "loved" appellant and he "loved" her. As their relationship progressed, Cole visited appellant's house when his wife was at work, visited appellant at work so that they could spend the evening together,4 and visited with appellant and the victim when she was not hired to babysit. Appellant introduced Cole to co-workers as his daughter.

Appellant told Cole that he and the victim were "no longer sleeping together, they didn't get along, and that [the victim] was going to leave [him]." At such time, when the victim allegedly left him, appellant wanted Cole to "move in with him and take care of [his daughter] and take care of the house, and [they] would get married."

In 1995, during Cole's first year of college, she began dating another man, which disturbed appellant. The following year, appellant told Cole that the victim planned to move to Pennsylvania and that Cole could move into the house and take care of appellant's daughter.

A few months prior to her disappearance in 1996, the victim had approached appellant, inquiring about his relationship with Cole. He denied that he and Cole had a relationship. Upset about the suspected affair, the victim told others that she was going to report appellant to the police and divorce him.5 When he told Cole about that confrontation, appellant stated "that he wanted to kill [the victim]," and that he would either "shoot" or "strangle her" and "put her body in the truck with the waste, and nobody would ever find her."

In June 1996, appellant called his friend Leon Adams and asked him if he could borrow a handgun for a "turkey shoot." Adams suggested that he purchase a gun from a pawn shop. A few days later, appellant contacted Adams and again asked about obtaining a handgun. Appellant also approached Ernest Stovall, Jr. and Christopher Alexander about obtaining a gun.

Brian Waugh, a PWWTP yard jockey who worked with appellant,6 testified that, sometime in 1996, appellant asked him what was the "best way to get rid of [appellant's friend's] wife." Waugh responded that the friend should "get a divorce." Appellant responded, "[N]o, no, I don't mean like that. Get rid of her, get rid of—dispose of her." Waugh then advised appellant that "a lot of people connected

843 A.2d 120
with murder, just can't, can't get away with it." Appellant then asked him "if you put a body in a hole and you put lime in it, would it eat the body?" Appellant also approached Waugh about getting a gun and asked him "if a .22 would kill somebody."

On June 30, 1996, the victim called Cole, and informed her that appellant had told her about their affair. Cole responded that it was a "one-time affair that had happened a couple months ago." After her discussion with the victim, Cole visited appellant at PWWTP, where they discussed the situation. Appellant stated that "he'll take care of it."

Events occurring from July 1 through July 5, 1996

Upset that she had lied to the victim about the duration of her affair with appellant, Cole called the victim on July 1, 1996, and told her that the affair with appellant had been going on for four years. Later that evening, the victim called Cole back. She told Cole that she planned to inform Cole's mother about the affair, which she did later that evening. Following her conversation with the victim, Cole called appellant and informed him of the victim's intention to report the affair to Cole's mother. Appellant responded, "don't worry about it, [I'll] take care of it," and requested that Cole meet him at 10:00 p.m.

On that same day, the victim informed her fried and co-worker, Margaret Speakes, that, because appellant was having a relationship with Cole, she intended to end the marriage and was going to contact an attorney regarding a divorce.

Appellant reported to work for the shift beginning at 6:00 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6:00 a.m. on July 2, 1996. When he arrived at work, he asked Brian Waugh to come in early the next day because appellant had to take his daughter to daycare. Appellant stated that he had to make such arrangements because the victim was "fed up with him and she was going to leave him."

At approximately 9:00 p.m., the victim spoke on the phone with Christopher Riggins, appellant's brother. She told him that she planned to leave the house because of the affair between appellant and Cole. Although she stated that she intended to leave appellant, Christopher Riggins testified that it was not in the victim's character to "just leave" and that the victim and her daughter had a "very tight relationship."

At 10:00 p.m., John Mark Thomas,7 a friend of appellant, spoke on the telephone with the victim. He described her as being "very upset" and "crying." She stated that she was going to leave appellant and go to Pennsylvania with her daughter.

After getting off from work, Cole "stole" some beer and met appellant at 10:15 p.m. at a local food store. They discussed appellant moving out of his house and whether Cole would go with him.8 Cole then went home and watched appellant pull down the driveway of his house. Cole remained outside until 12:00 a.m. or 1:00 a.m., talking to her boyfriend, who was living with her at her parents' house.

July 2

At approximately 10:00 a.m. on July 2, 1996, appellant called Thomas at work and

843 A.2d 121
told him that the victim was gone. Because there was no one there to watch his daughter, appellant requested that Thomas come over.

At lunch time, appellant visited Cole at work and told her that when he arrived home from work that morning, his daughter was in bed asleep and that the victim "was gone." Cole did not observe any marks, scratches, or bruises on appellant. According to Cole, appellant was "happy" that the victim was gone. He then stated to Cole that the victim left him a note stating that "she was gone, to watch [their daughter], and she'd never come back." Appellant then asked Cole to move into his home "[a]s soon as possible" and "help take care of [appellant's daughter]."

Thomas arrived at appellant's house at 4:00 p.m. Appellant went to work while Thomas watched appellant's daughter.

July 3

Appellant called 911 and reported the victim missing. At approximately 9:00 a.m., Howard County Police Officer Karen Johnson arrived at appellant's home. Appellant told the officer that he had last seen the victim on July 1, 1996, at 8:00 p.m. He did not know she was missing until the morning of July 2, 1996. He informed Officer Johnson that approximately $300, some clothes, and a computer were missing.9 The victim's car was in the garage and her wedding ring was upstairs.

The officer asked appellant if he had contacted the victim's family or friends or area hospitals. Appellant then contacted the victim's parents in Pennsylvania and a sister in California. Appellant told Officer Johnson that he had waited to report the victim missing because he believed that he had to wait forty-eight hours. He then stated that he was having an affair, that his affair caused tension in the couple's marriage, but that they had planned on...

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25 practice notes
  • Grimm v. State, No. 49
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 4, 2016
    ...convicted of, crimes that never occurred." Borza v. State, 25 Md. App. 391, 403, 335 A.2d 142, 150 (1975). See also Riggins v. State, 155 Md. App. 181, 234, 843 A.2d 115, 146 (2004) ("[T]he limited purpose of the corroboration requirement is to prevent a mentally unstable person from confes......
  • Abbott v. State, No. 1900, Sept. Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 25, 2010
    ...any evidence in the case that supports the instruction." Dishman v. State, 352 Md. 279, 292, 721 A.2d 699 (1998); see Riggins v. State, 155 Md.App. 181, 222, 843 A.2d 115, cert. denied, 381 Md. 676, 851 A.2d 595 (2004). Ordinarily, "`a defendant is entitled to an instruction as to any recog......
  • Grimm v. State, No. 49, Sept. Term, 2015.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 4, 2016
    ...convicted of, crimes that never occurred.” Borza v. State, 25 Md.App. 391, 403, 335 A.2d 142, 150 (1975). See also Riggins v. State, 155 Md.App. 181, 234, 843 A.2d 115, 146 (2004) ( “[T]he limited purpose of the corroboration 135 A.3d 855 requirement is to prevent a mentally unstable person......
  • Cox v. State, No. 473, Sept. Term, 2009.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals
    • September 17, 2010
    ...may be "small in amount," and it must show only the "major or essential harm involved in the charged offense." Riggins v. State, 155 Md.App. 181, 214, 215, 843 A.2d 115 (quotation and citation omitted), cert. denied, 381 Md. 676, 851 A.2d 595 (2004). The corroborating evidence need not " 'b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Grimm v. State, No. 49
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 4, 2016
    ...convicted of, crimes that never occurred." Borza v. State, 25 Md. App. 391, 403, 335 A.2d 142, 150 (1975). See also Riggins v. State, 155 Md. App. 181, 234, 843 A.2d 115, 146 (2004) ("[T]he limited purpose of the corroboration requirement is to prevent a mentally unstable person from confes......
  • Abbott v. State, No. 1900, Sept. Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 25, 2010
    ...any evidence in the case that supports the instruction." Dishman v. State, 352 Md. 279, 292, 721 A.2d 699 (1998); see Riggins v. State, 155 Md.App. 181, 222, 843 A.2d 115, cert. denied, 381 Md. 676, 851 A.2d 595 (2004). Ordinarily, "`a defendant is entitled to an instruction as to any recog......
  • Grimm v. State, No. 49, Sept. Term, 2015.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 4, 2016
    ...convicted of, crimes that never occurred.” Borza v. State, 25 Md.App. 391, 403, 335 A.2d 142, 150 (1975). See also Riggins v. State, 155 Md.App. 181, 234, 843 A.2d 115, 146 (2004) ( “[T]he limited purpose of the corroboration 135 A.3d 855 requirement is to prevent a mentally unstable person......
  • Cox v. State, No. 473, Sept. Term, 2009.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals
    • September 17, 2010
    ...may be "small in amount," and it must show only the "major or essential harm involved in the charged offense." Riggins v. State, 155 Md.App. 181, 214, 215, 843 A.2d 115 (quotation and citation omitted), cert. denied, 381 Md. 676, 851 A.2d 595 (2004). The corroborating evidence need not " 'b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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