State v. McElroy, ED 106002

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtJames M. Dowd, Chief Judge
Citation551 S.W.3d 630
Parties STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Justin L. MCELROY, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. ED 106002,ED 106002
Decision Date26 June 2018

551 S.W.3d 630

STATE of Missouri, Respondent,
Justin L. MCELROY, Appellant.

No. ED 106002

Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, NORTHERN DIVISION.

Filed: June 26, 2018

FOR APPELLANT: Mark L. Williams, 1003 East Jefferson Street, Kirksville, Missouri 63501.

FOR RESPONDENT: Joshua Hawley, Garrick Aplin, 221 West High Street, P.O. Box 899, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102.


James M. Dowd, Chief Judge

Justin L. McElroy was found guilty following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Scotland County of one count of the class C felony of possession of a controlled substance, namely methamphetamine. McElroy was sentenced to five years in prison. On appeal, McElroy claims that the trial court clearly erred when it denied his motion to suppress and admitted into evidence a vial of methamphetamine powder found pursuant to a warrantless search of his person, and statements he made without first receiving the Miranda warnings. We disagree and affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

Kevin Goosey was sentenced in an unrelated case to probation, one of the conditions of which was that his residence was to remain open to a warrantless search by law enforcement officers at any time to verify that he was complying with other conditions of his probation. So, on the evening of May 25, 2014, City of Memphis Police Officer Jason Ketchum enlisted the assistance of Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Michael Kaugh and Trooper Brett Tappendorf to conduct a bond compliance search of Goosey’s residence. None of the law enforcement officers had reason to know that McElroy would be at Goosey’s residence.

Once at the residence, the officers first made contact at the front door with James Wheeler, and when they identified themselves as police officers he responded in alarm with an expletive. Moments later, Goosey appeared at the door and allowed the officers to perform their bond compliance search of his residence. Once inside, the officers conversed briefly with Goosey and Wheeler before asking whether there was anyone else in the residence. Goosey responded that McElroy was also present. The officers moved from the front room of the house, a living room, back through the kitchen and toward the rear bedroom, where they found McElroy seated at a table.

551 S.W.3d 632

Officer Ketchum shook hands with McElroy and explained the nature of the search they were conducting. While speaking with McElroy, Officer Ketchum observed Goosey sit down at the table, lean toward a nearby bed, and begin to make furtive movements. Officer Ketchum was concerned that Goosey was grabbing for something that could harm the officers and ordered Goosey to stand up. Goosey complied. As Officer Ketchum approached Goosey, he observed partially beneath the bed and the table a blue pen stem and a piece of burnt foil. Officer Ketchum identified these items as methamphetamine-related drug paraphernalia.

At that point, Officer Ketchum requested the other two officers to handcuff Goosey, Wheeler, and McElroy to prevent the alteration or destruction of evidence and to limit Goosey, Wheeler, and McElroy’s movement in light of the tight quarters inside the residence and the readily available weapons in the house. Officer Ketchum had observed a "large amount of clutter str[e]wn completely through[out] the residence," including screwdrivers, handsaws, large glass bottles, and knives "laying all over the place" in the kitchen. Trooper Tappendorf also had noted that "[i]t was a very cluttered house, lots of places that anything could be stored that could be used as a weapon."

Trooper Tappendorf handcuffed McElroy. He then conducted an over-the-clothing patdown of McElroy’s person, observing an unidentified "bulge" in McElroy’s right front pocket. Trooper Tappendorf asked McElroy what it was and McElroy said it was a pocketknife. Trooper Tappendorf then removed the object from McElroy’s pocket. Trooper Tappendorf discovered that it was not a pocketknife but a small, clear vial containing a white powdery crystal substance that was later determined by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab to be methamphetamine.

McElroy was charged with one count of the class C felony of possession of a controlled substance. He filed a motion to suppress evidence of the vial of methamphetamine powder, including his statement to Trooper Tappendorf that he had a pocketknife in his pocket. The trial court denied the motion and McElroy’s motion to reconsider and found him guilty of the charged offense. This appeal follows.

Standard of Review

We will reverse the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress only if the trial court’s ruling was clearly erroneous. State v. Esmerovic , 544 S.W.3d...

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