State v. Lauer

Citation955 S.W.2d 23
Decision Date06 November 1997
Docket NumberNo. 21470,21470
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Thomas E. LAUER, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

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955 S.W.2d 23
STATE of Missouri, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Thomas E. LAUER, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 21470.
Missouri Court of Appeals,
Southern District,
Division Two.
Nov. 6, 1997.

Deborah B. Wafer, Dist. Defender, St. Louis, for defendant-appellant.

Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Atty. Gen., Cheryl A. Caponegro, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for plaintiff-respondent.

SHRUM, Judge.

Thomas E. Lauer (Defendant) was convicted after a bench trial of Class B felony first degree assault in violation of § 565.050 and Class C felony child abuse in violation of § 568.060. 1 Defendant appeals, claiming there was not sufficient substantial evidence to support either conviction. This court disagrees. We affirm.

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Around 6:30 on the morning of March 7, 1996, Carrie B. was awakened by the crying of her two-year-old son M__. Carrie left her bed and entered the living room to find Defendant, her live-in boyfriend, spanking M__ on his bare buttocks and covering M__'s mouth with his hand. Defendant and M__ had been sleeping on the couch. M__ had urinated in his sleep and this prompted Defendant to "spank" M__.

Carrie asked Defendant to stop spanking the child, but he continued. Defendant told Carrie to leave the room, and she complied. Carrie went back to the living room where she and Defendant started to argue about what he was doing to M__.

At some point, Defendant placed M__ in a bathtub filled with cold water. Carrie testified that M__ was very upset and shaking while in the tub of cold water. She removed her son from the tub, wrapped him in a towel, and sent him to the bedroom. While Carrie was in the bathroom, Defendant kicked her.

Carrie and Defendant both went into the bedroom where they resumed arguing. Defendant struck Carrie in the eye with his fist. Carrie hit him back. Defendant then struck Carrie with his fists multiple times in her face and on her head. Carrie described these blows as "hard" and stated that the blows "hurt." According to Carrie's testimony the assault in the bedroom by Defendant lasted fifteen minutes.

Carrie sustained a concussion and bruises to her eyes as a result of Defendant's blows to her head and face. Carrie also sustained a cut to her leg which required stitches, bruises on her legs, and a bruise on her neck. Carrie was uncertain of how she suffered the injuries to her legs and neck.

Defendant told Carrie that if she turned him in ... he would "beat [her] up worse." Carrie wanted to take her son and leave, but Defendant would not let them leave. Also, Defendant would not let Carrie stay in the same room with M__. Nearly three hours later, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Defendant allowed Carrie and M__ to leave. Near the time she left, Carrie noticed bruises on M__'s face and forehead. She testified that these bruises were not present when she went to bed and that she had not hit her son.

Later, Carrie was treated at a local hospital. M__ was examined by Samuel Brayfield a doctor of osteopathic medicine specially trained in the recognition and treatment of child abuse. Dr. Brayfield testified, among other things, regarding bruises on M__'s face, scalp, ear, neck, upper back, lower back, buttocks, thighs, shoulder, arms, and area above the penis. Dr. Brayfield stated that the multiple bruises and the apparent ages of the bruises constituted "a classic sign of an abused and battered child." Dr. Brayfield also noted that M__ seemed to be "well-bonded to his mother" and displayed "a fairly good interaction between a mother and a child."

Defendant was eventually arrested. He stated to one police officer that he was responsible for M__'s discipline and that he had spanked the child. Defendant remarked that he had disciplined the child in relation to "potty training." He also admitted that he had placed the child in cold water. Defendant said that Carrie had told him that the water in which he placed M__ was too cold. He also stated that Carrie told him he was being too rough on M__. Another officer testified that Defendant admitted that he had been the sole disciplinarian of M__, and that he had been too rough with the child. Defendant, however, denied striking M__ in the face or engaging in acts of sexual abuse.

After hearing this and other evidence, the trial judge convicted Defendant of Class B felony first degree assault for beating Carrie. He also convicted Defendant of Class C felony child abuse in relation to his beating of M__'s head and body. This appeal followed.


Standard of Review:

Defendant's two points on appeal challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. The standard for reviewing the sufficiency of evidence in a criminal case when tried by a judge is the same as when reviewing a jury-tried case. State v. Sladek, 835 S.W.2d 308, 310 (Mo.banc

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1992). An appellate court does not weigh the evidence but accepts as true all evidence tending to prove guilt along with all reasonable inferences that support the decision of the trial court. Id. at 310. We ignore all contrary evidence and inferences. Id. We determine whether there was sufficient evidence for the court as trier of fact to reach its judgment. Id. at 310.

We note that witness testimony comprised the majority of the evidence adduced at trial. Witness testimony is for a trial court to consider as the trier of fact. State v. Helmig, 924 S.W.2d 562, 565 (Mo.App.1996). The trial court may believe all or part of a witness' testimony, or none of a witness' testimony. State v....

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  • State v. Barnum, SD 36859
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 30, 2022
    ...used to review the sufficiency of the evidence in a court-tried or a jury-tried criminal case is therefore the same. State v. Lauer , 955 S.W.2d 23, 24-25 (Mo. App. 1997). "Appellate review of sufficiency of the evidence is limited to whether the State has introduced sufficient evidence fro......
  • State v. Still, 27254.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 16, 2007
    ...inflicted cruel and inhuman punishment on A.B. and N.B. See State v. Sumowski, 794 S.W.2d 643, 645 (Mo. banc 1990); State v. Lauer, 955 S.W.2d 23, 26 (Mo.App.1997); State v. Silvey, 980 S.W.2d 103, 106 In Sumowski, the defendant disciplined his six-year-old stepson by slapping the child sev......
  • State v. Fraga, 26709.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • January 31, 2006
    ...the standard used to review the sufficiency of the evidence in a court-tried and a jury-tried criminal case is the same. State v. Lauer, 955 S.W.2d 23, 24 (Mo.App.1997). Appellate review is limited to determining whether there was sufficient evidence from which a reasonable fact-finder migh......
  • State v. Morton, 27990.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 17, 2007
    ...who testified below. That is not our function. "Witness testimony is for a trial court to consider as the trier of fact." State v. Lauer, 955 S.W.2d 23, 25 (Mo.App. 1997). It is the trial court's prerogative to decide whether to believe all, part or none of a witness' testimony. Id. We give......
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