State v. Craft, s. 14138

Citation165 W.Va. 741,272 S.E.2d 46
Decision Date28 October 1980
Docket Number14139,Nos. 14138,s. 14138
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia v. Robert Lee CRAFT. STATE of West Virginia v. Rocky Leonard CRESCE.
CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia

Syllabus by the Court

1. "Circumstantial evidence will not support a guilty verdict, unless the fact of guilt is proved to the exclusion of every reasonable hypothesis of innocence; and circumstances which create only a suspicion of guilt but do not prove the actual commission of the crime charged, are not sufficient to sustain a conviction." Syllabus Point 2, State v. Dobbs, W.Va., 259 S.E.2d 829 (1979).

2. "In a criminal case, a verdict of guilt will not be set aside on the ground that it is contrary to the evidence, where the state's evidence is sufficient to convince impartial minds of the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence is to be viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution. To warrant interference with a verdict of guilt on the ground of insufficiency of evidence, the court must be convinced that the evidence was manifestly inadequate and that consequent injustice has been done." Syllabus Point 1, State v. Starkey, W.Va., 244 S.E.2d 219 (1978).

3. "The exclusive possession by an accused person of property recently stolen, either by simple larceny or by theft thereof from a dwelling or other building, is not of itself prima facie evidence that the person in whose possession the goods are found is the thief; but such possession is, nevertheless, a strong circumstance to be considered with other evidence, facts and circumstances properly tending to prove the guilt of such person." Syllabus Point 1, State v. Etchell, 147 W.Va. 338, 127 S.E.2d 609 (1962).

4. "Evidence of the exclusive possession by an accused person of recently stolen goods, corroborated by other proper evidence, facts and circumstances tending to prove guilt, may be sufficient to convict the possessor of the theft of such goods, even though the corroborating evidence, facts and circumstances alone would be insufficient to support a conviction. Whether, in such circumstances, the evidence is sufficient to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt is ordinarily a question of fact for the jury." Syllabus Point 2, State v. Etchell, 147 W.Va. 338, 127 S.E.2d 609 (1962).

5. Under certain circumstances, when the occupants of an automobile have been arrested police officers may take the automobile into custody for public safety purposes, or in order to protect the vehicle from vandalism or damage, or to protect the owner's personal property that may be left in the vehicle.

6. "An officer, with authority to conserve the peace, may, without a warrant, arrest any person who he, upon probable cause, believes has committed or is committing a felony, though it afterwards appears that no felony was actually perpetrated." Syllabus Point 2, State v. Duvernoy, 156 W.Va. 578, 195 S.E.2d 631 (1973).

7. " 'Probable cause to make an arrest without a warrant exists when the facts and the circumstances within the knowledge of the arresting officers are sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that an offense has been committed.' Point 1 Syllabus, State v. Plantz, (155) W.Va. (24) (180 S.E.2d 614)." Syllabus Point 3, State v. Duvernoy, 156 W.Va. 578, 195 S.E.2d 631 (1973).

8. Whether a consent to a search is in fact voluntary or is the product of duress or coercion, express or implied, is a question of fact to be determined from the totality of all the circumstances.

9. "The exceptions permitting evidence of collateral crimes and charges to be admissible against an accused are recognized as follows: the evidence is admissible if it tends to establish (1) motive; (2) intent; (3) the absence of mistake or accident; (4) a common scheme or plan embracing the commission of two or more crimes so related to each other that proof of one tends to establish the others; and (5) the identity of the person charged with the commission of the crime on trial." Syllabus Point 12, State v. Thomas, 157 W.Va. 640, 203 S.E.2d 445 (1974).

Donald L. Pitts, Beckley, for defendants.

Chauncey H. Browning, Jr., Atty. Gen., Gregory W. Bailey, Deputy Atty. Gen., Curtis G. Power, III, Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for plaintiff.

MILLER, Justice.

Robert L. Craft, Rocky L. Cresce and Stephen N. Keffer were convicted in the Circuit Court of Nicholas County of breaking and entering. Two of the defendants, Craft and Cresce, appeal their convictions, raising issues of (1) the insufficiency of the evidence, (2) illegal search and seizure, and (3) the admissibility at trial of evidence of other crimes. 1

The defendants were convicted of breaking and entering LeRose Motors, Inc., in Summersville, Nicholas County. There were no witnesses to the breaking and entering, and no evidence discovered at the scene to connect the defendants to the crime. The evidence introduced at trial was circumstantial, based primarily upon the defendants' possession of the stolen items shortly after the commission of the breaking and entering.

The defendant Craft is a resident of Mercer County, and the defendants Cresce and Keffer are residents of Fayette County. The general manager of LeRose Motors testified that the three defendants arrived at LeRose Motors at 7:30 p. m. on September 2, 1976, traveling together in a 1966 Buick. Craft spent some time with the manager discussing the possible purchase of an automobile and the trade-in of his 1966 Buick. The defendants departed without consummating a purchase.

The manager further testified that he again encountered the three defendants later the same evening at the Nicholas County Fair, and engaged them in casual conversation. The record does not indicate at what time this conversation took place.

LeRose Motors closed for the evening at 10:00 p. m. Some time after the closing, a door was forcibly opened and a number of tools were stolen, including a screwdriver, a crescent wrench, a pair of pliers, a chisel, a cutting torch and hoses, a pipe wrench, a hammer, and a mechanic's cloth. Additionally, three state inspection stickers were missing. The breaking and entering was undetected until 7:00 a. m. the following morning, September 3, 1976, when LeRose Motors opened for business.

Earlier the same morning, at about 12:30 a. m., two Summersville police officers, Garry Evans and Curtis Persinger, while on patrol, observed a vehicle stop on Broad Street in Summersville and discharge two passengers who then ran toward Halstead's Foodland store. The officers stationed themselves behind the store, where they observed one of the suspects climb to the roof and receive a valise passed to him by the other suspect, who then ran from the store.

The officers called for assistance from the Summersville police, the sheriff's department, and the state police. When assistance arrived, Patrolman Persinger remained stationed behind the building while Patrolman Evans and a deputy sheriff entered the building and climbed to a window which overlooked a portion of the roof. Patrolman Evans testified that he shined his flashlight through the window and observed a suspect in the beam of light who passed within ten feet of the window.

The suspect then jumped from the rooftop and ran up a path leading to the point where Patrolman Persinger was stationed. Patrolman Persinger testified that he shined his flashlight on the suspect's face as the suspect approached within 15 or 20 feet of him, and ordered the suspect to halt. The suspect hesitated, then jumped into the brush and escaped. A search of the rooftop revealed a valise which contained a number of the tools that were subsequently reported to be stolen from LeRose Motors.

Following the escape, the police officers set up roadblocks in the area and provided a description of the suspect seen on the rooftop based upon the observations of Patrolmen Evans and Persinger. At 3:30 a. m., a deputy sheriff who was involved in the search stopped to examine a 1966 Buick that was parked at the side of a public road. He testified that he discovered the defendant Keffer hiding behind the vehicle, and the defendant Cresce sitting below a nearby embankment. The deputy described both as being in a state of intoxication and placed them under arrest for public intoxication. The car was impounded and its license revealed it registered to the defendant Craft.

Craft was arrested by a state policeman at 7:30 a. m. in a nearby park, after a report had been received that a man fitting the description of the suspect on the Foodland rooftop was seen in the park. Craft was then taken to Patrolman Persinger who identified him as the suspect he had seen escaping from the rooftop.

The Summersville police obtained written consent from Craft to search his car for evidence pursuant to their investigation. The search revealed a screwdriver that was identified as stolen from LeRose Motors, and the three inspection stickers that were missing from LeRose.

At trial, the State produced the foregoing evidence coupled with in-court identification of the defendant Craft by Patrolmen Evans and Persinger, based on their observations of Craft at Halstead's Foodland.

The defense consisted of testimony from all three defendants that they traveled together to Summersville but did not participate in the breaking and entering of LeRose Motors or the attempted breaking and entering into Halstead's Foodland. They testified that they stopped at LeRose Motors during business hours in order for Craft to consider the purchase of a new car.

Craft testified that while discussing the purchase with the manager, he arranged to buy three State inspection stickers which the manager promised to deliver later in the evening at the Nicholas County Fair. Craft explained the presence of the screwdriver in his car by stating that it was his own screwdriver and that he had owned it for several years.

The three defendants...

To continue reading

Request your trial
68 cases
  • Myers v. Frazier, s. 16114
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 27, 1984
    ......, Rule 11, gives a trial court discretion to refuse a plea bargain." Syllabus Point 5, State v. Guthrie, W.Va., 315 S.E.2d 397 (1984). .         3. Under Rule 11(e)(2) of the West ...Craft, W.Va., 272 S.E.2d 46 (1980); State v. Duvernoy, 156 W. Va. 578, 195 S.E.2d 631 (1973); State v. ......
  • State v. Davis, 16433
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 25, 1986
    ......Ketchum, 169 W.Va. 9, 289 S.E.2d 657, 660 (1981); State v. Moran, 168 W.Va. 688, 285 S.E.2d 450, 452 (1981); State v. Craft, 165 W.Va. 741, 759, 272 S.E.2d 46, 56 (1980); State v. Clawson, 165 W.Va. 588, 619, 270 S.E.2d 659, 677 (1980); State v. Burton, 163 W.Va. 40, 58, ......
  • State v. Campos, 12482
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 22, 1991
    ...... See, e.g., State v. Howerton, 174 W.Va. 801, 329 S.E.2d 874 (1985); State v. Craft, 165 W.Va. 741, 272 S.E.2d 46 (W.Va.1980). Randall is similarly inapposite. In Randall, the court's decision turned on its determination that ......
  • State v. Goff, 14151
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 2, 1980
    ...... State v. Craft, W.Va., 272 S.E.2d 46 (1980). Most courts hold that the mere fact that the driver is arrested does not give automatic grounds for impoundment of the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT