State v. Quinones Rodriguez, 120920 SDSC, 29020-a-JMK

Docket Nº:29020-a-JMK
Opinion Judge:KERN, JUSTICE
Party Name:STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. JOSE ANIBAL QUINONES RODRIGUEZ, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:JASON R. RAVNSBORG Attorney General PATRICIA ARCHER CHELSEA WENZEL Assistant Attorneys General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee. THOMAS J. COGLEY of Cogley Law Office, Prof. LLC Aberdeen, South Dakota JOSHUA K. FINER of Richardson, Wyly, Wise, Sauck & Hieb, LLP Aberdeen, ...
Judge Panel:GILBERTSON, Chief Justice, and JENSEN, SALTER, and DEVANEY, Justices, concur.
Case Date:December 09, 2020
Court:Supreme Court of South Dakota

2020 S.D. 68

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, Plaintiff and Appellee,



No. 29020-a-JMK

Supreme Court of South Dakota

December 9, 2020



JASON R. RAVNSBORG Attorney General PATRICIA ARCHER CHELSEA WENZEL Assistant Attorneys General Pierre, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

THOMAS J. COGLEY of Cogley Law Office, Prof. LLC Aberdeen, South Dakota JOSHUA K. FINER of Richardson, Wyly, Wise, Sauck & Hieb, LLP Aberdeen, South Dakota Attorneys for defendant and appellant.



[¶1.] Following a bench trial, Jose Anibal Quinones Rodriguez (Rodriguez) was convicted of first-degree murder and other offenses in connection with the slaying of Tawny Rockwood (Rockwood) in February 2018. He appeals his convictions, alleging that the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress; refusing to declare certain witnesses adverse; violating his Sixth Amendment rights; and finding him guilty based on insufficient evidence. He also alleges cumulative error based on the above claims. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2.] On Friday, February 9, 2018, at 1:30 a.m., a newspaper delivery man was traveling east along Highway 12 near Andover, South Dakota, 1 when he noticed that an apartment building was on fire. He called 911 for aid. By the time law enforcement arrived at the scene, flames had consumed one side of the apartment building. The inferno was concentrated in Tawny Rockwood's upstairs apartment. Firefighters were unable to immediately locate Rockwood at the scene and began an investigation into her whereabouts.

[¶3.] Day County Deputy Sheriff Jerred Schreur responded to the 911 call. He was familiar with the apartment quad-complex, as well as its sole occupant, 2and remembered that a Dodge pickup truck was often outside the complex in the days leading up to the fire. Typically, on his commute to work, he would observe the truck outside of the building, but he was unsure how long it normally stayed there. He considered the vehicle suspicious because it was unfamiliar to him and it appeared to have been spray painted. For these reasons, on February 7, he recorded the license plate number in order to determine the identity of the owner. On the morning of February 9, shortly after law enforcement officers were alerted about the fire, Deputy Schreur discovered that the vehicle was owned by Rodriguez. He attempted to contact Rodriguez to determine whether he had information regarding Rockwood's whereabouts, but the call went to Rodriguez's voicemail.

[¶4.] Concerned about Rockwood, Deputy Schreur requested the assistance of other law enforcement agencies in locating Rockwood and Rodriguez. Aberdeen Police Department Detectives Kyle Fadness and Jeff Neal visited the residence of Agnes Quinones-Rios (Agnes), Rodriguez's daughter, at about 8:45 a.m. on February 9. As they drove up to Agnes's house, the detectives observed a male, later identified as Rodriguez, entering it. They also saw that a spray-painted Dodge pickup was parked near the house. Hoping that Rodriguez would come back outside, the detectives parked across the street and waited. At some point, Rodriguez left the house and got into the driver's seat of a white Jeep with tinted windows. When he did not drive away, Detective Fadness approached the Jeep and asked Rodriguez if he would answer some questions. Rodriguez agreed and followed Detective Fadness back to his car to talk, rather than stand outside because the weather was cold. The detectives did not advise Rodriguez of his Miranda rights, restrain him, or place him under arrest.

[¶5.] Once inside the car, the Detective Fadness tried to tell Rodriguez about the fire, but it quickly became clear that English was not his native language. To assist with communication, Detective Fadness called Marie DeGroot, an Aberdeen City employee who spoke Spanish, and placed the call on speakerphone.3

[¶6.] During the discussion, Rodriguez stated that he and Rockwood were in a relationship and that he had driven to her residence on Wednesday, February 7, and spent the night there. According to Rodriguez, he remained at her apartment for most of the next day, February 8, before leaving to return to Aberdeen at around 8:00 p.m. Rodriguez claimed that about thirty minutes later, he arrived at his daughter's house in Aberdeen, where he took a shower. Then he went to his brother Wilberto's house, borrowed a white Jeep, and filled it up with gas at the Holiday gas station. He explained that he went on several errands in the Jeep that night, including driving it to purchase beer and to Walmart to buy a space heater for warmth so that he could sleep in the Jeep. At some point, Rodriguez indicated that he also went to a friend's house, but the interpreter had a difficult time understanding the name of the friend.4

[¶7.] The friend, Gaver Glover (Glover), had been with Rodriguez and Agnes on several occasions during the evening of February 8 and early morning hours of February 9. Glover previously had a romantic relationship with Agnes and talked to her often.

[¶8.] At the same time that Detective Fadness was interviewing Rodriguez in their car, officers arrived to question Agnes. She informed them that Rockwood was not in her house and permitted them to enter to look for her. While the officers were walking through the premises, they observed a red gas can in a shed behind the house. Officers did not need to enter the shed to see the can because the door to the shed was open.

[¶9.] When Detective Fadness asked Rodriguez about the gas can, he indicated that it was his brother's and that Wilberto had put it in the shed. He told the detective that he also owned a gas can, stating that his was in the back of his Dodge truck. Rodriguez agreed to surrender his clothes and cell phone to law enforcement. However, he informed the detective that he had broken his phone the day before by inadvertently dropping it and running over it with his pickup. Once they retrieved these items from Rodriguez, they concluded the interview.

[¶10.] Three agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrived in Aberdeen that day (February 9) to work on an unrelated case and also interviewed Rodriguez about the fire and Rockwood's whereabouts. Rodriguez was working on the Jeep outside of Agnes's house when they arrived. He consented to speak with them and followed the ATF agents into their suburban. At the outset of the conversation, the ATF agents informed Rodriguez that he was not under arrest and was free to leave.

[¶11.] Much of the interview was conducted in Spanish. The agents did not procure a foreign language expert to assist them in interviewing Rodriguez; instead, they spoke with him in Spanish and English.5 Rodriguez repeated the information that he had told Detective Fadness earlier that day.

[¶12.] Meanwhile, various state and federal agencies were investigating the apartment fire. Because they considered its origin to be suspicious, officers obtained a search warrant for the premises and a search began shortly after noon on February 9. The apartment and all of its contents were heavily damaged by the fire. After hours of searching through the debris, officers found Rockwood's remains in what used to be the living room area. Her body was severely burned, but officers were able to observe a bullet wound to her head. Dr. Kenneth Snell, a pathologist from Sioux Falls, later conducted an autopsy, which revealed that Rockwood suffered two bullet wounds to her skull, one of which was the cause of her death. During his examination, Dr. Snell removed an intact bullet from Rockwood's hair.

[¶13.] Several days later, an Aberdeen police officer was searching a dumpster in an alley to assist with an unrelated case when he opened a garbage bag and found a beer carton with a black handgun inside. The officer seized the gun and submitted it to the State laboratory in Pierre for analysis. The State's ballistics expert, Frans Martiz, examined the gun. The gun, which was a Hi-Point model JCP Smith & Wesson .40 caliber, was damaged but the serial number remained intact. Martiz repaired the gun and fired a test bullet for purposes of comparison to the bullet found in Rockwood's hair. After conducting a microscopic comparison of the rifling marks on the two bullets, Martiz conclusively determined that the bullet found in Rockwood's hair was fired by the gun found in the dumpster.

[¶14.] In their search to discover the identity of the gun owner, law enforcement contacted EZ Pawn Shop in Aberdeen and requested that it search its records regarding the gun. Angela Johnson (Johnson), the shop manager, located a record revealing that Jamie Lynn Farmer (Farmer) purchased the gun in question for $200 in October 2017.6 Johnson informed police that she knew Farmer because Johnson managed a rental property that Farmer occupied. She provided law enforcement with a rental property agreement for the unit and explained that Rodriguez lived in the apartment with Farmer.

[¶15.] Officers obtained a search warrant for Wilberto's Jeep and Rodriguez's Dodge pickup and recovered a nylon gun holster, butane lighters, a gas can from the Dodge pickup and a propane torch from the Jeep. Officers also reviewed several surveillance videos taken from the Holiday gas station and the Walmart in Aberdeen to establish Rodriguez's whereabouts throughout the night of February 8 and into the morning hours of February 9. They discovered that Rodriguez went to the Holiday gas station at 9:04 p.m. on February 8....

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