State v. Welsh, 20190833-CA

CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah
Writing for the CourtTENNEY, JUDGE:
Citation2022 UT App 99
PartiesState of Utah, Appellee, v. Harley Gregory Welsh, Appellant.
Docket Number20190833-CA
Decision Date11 August 2022

2022 UT App 99

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.

Harley Gregory Welsh, Appellant.

No. 20190833-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah

August 11, 2022


Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Adam T. Mow No. 181902848

Robert T. Denny, Attorney for Appellant

Sean D. Reyes and Jeffrey D. Mann, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Ryan D. Tenney authored this Opinion, in which Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Justice Diana Hagen concurred.[1]

OPINION

TENNEY, JUDGE:

¶1 Harley Welsh broke into his ex-girlfriend's (Victim) apartment, kicked down her bathroom door, and dragged her out of the room by her ankles. Victim's roommate (Roommate) personally witnessed these events. A few hours later, Victim made several incriminating statements about Welsh while at a hospital emergency room. And a few hours after that, Victim

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showed a police officer several texts that Welsh had allegedly sent her that night that contained incriminating information.

¶2 A jury later convicted Welsh of several crimes stemming from his attack on Victim. On appeal, Welsh argues that the district court should not have admitted either the text messages or the statements that Victim made at the hospital. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

BACKGROUND[2]

Welsh Breaks into Victim's Apartment

¶3 On a late afternoon in October 2017, Roommate was at the apartment she shared with Victim when she heard somebody walk loudly past her bedroom window. She then heard "banging" on her front door, so she went to the door and asked who it was. The person banging did not respond, even after Roommate "asked 4 or 5 times." A man on the other side of the door finally said, "Does it matter who it is?" Roommate responded, "Yes, because I'm not going to open the door unless you tell me who it is." The man said that he was "Harley." Roommate knew that Victim had dated a man named Harley Welsh, but she told the man at the door that Victim wasn't there so that he would go away.

¶4 The man didn't say anything in response. Instead, he smashed through the door, which "exploded inward" and "knocked" Roommate to the floor. Harley Welsh then entered the apartment.

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¶5 Welsh was wearing gloves and had a tire iron in his hand. He seemed "pissed off" and "[v]ery angry," and he asked Roommate, "Where the fuck is [Victim]?" Roommate again told him that Victim wasn't there.

¶6 But Victim was in the apartment, and after hearing the initial commotion, she had tried hiding in the bathroom by turning out the light and shutting the door most of the way. When Welsh began walking through the apartment, Victim pushed the door shut. Welsh realized that somebody was in the bathroom, so he "kicked the door" down.

¶7 Welsh then dragged Victim out of the bathroom by her ankles. As he did, Victim was "[k]icking and screaming," telling Welsh, "I'm not going with you." Welsh replied, "We're leaving." When Victim implored him to "[c]alm down or somebody's going to call the cops," Welsh responded, "That's okay. Let them call the cops because they'll just show up to two bloody corpses."

¶8 Welsh took a piece of cord from the living room, cut it up with his pocketknife, and asked Victim "if she wanted him to tie her up." Victim said that she didn't want him to tie her up and reiterated "that she wasn't leaving with him." Welsh then "attempted to tie her ankles," and while he did, Victim told him, "No. Stop. You're hurting me."

¶9 Roommate witnessed all this from the floor where she had been lying since Welsh broke in. Roommate later testified that she thought Welsh was "going to smash [her] brains with a tire iron" and that she was "going to die." She also explained that she made no attempts to protect Victim because she was afraid. Instead, as Welsh and Victim continued to struggle, Roommate crawled to her bedroom. Once there, she heard Welsh and Victim continue to argue. Somewhere between fifteen to thirty minutes later, the apartment fell silent, and Roommate could tell that Welsh and Victim were now gone. At that point, Roommate felt "sick" and "freaked out." But she didn't call 911 because she was still afraid.

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Victim and Welsh Arrive at the Emergency Room

¶10 Around 5:30 that evening, Victim arrived at the emergency room of a nearby hospital and was treated by an emergency physician (Doctor). A man was with Victim, and Doctor later identified that man as Welsh.

¶11 Victim's medical chart indicated that she "registered to be seen for an ATV accident." But Doctor thought that "her appearance and demeanor seemed different than . . . would [be] expected from someone that had recently been in an accident." In particular, Doctor thought that Victim "seemed frightened" of Welsh, who was still "in the room with her." The nurse (Nurse) who was helping Victim also thought that Victim "seemed scared and anxious."

¶12 After initially giving "haltered and stuttered" answers to Doctor's questions, Victim "declar[ed] that [Welsh] was not allowed to be there and that he needed to get out of the room." When hospital staff asked Welsh to leave, however, Welsh was "resistant and stayed seated. It required a repeated effort of verbal indication that he should leave the room."

¶13 Welsh eventually left the room, after which Nurse took Victim to a different room to "do a more proper examination." But while Nurse and Victim were in the new room, they found Welsh "hiding behind the door and behind the curtain." When Victim saw him, she screamed and ran across the emergency department into another room. Welsh "claimed that he had every right to be in the room and that he didn't have to leave." The staff "got security involved" to get Welsh "out of the room," and Nurse went to find Victim. Nurse found Victim hiding in an empty room. Victim "seemed scared" and "said she didn't want [Welsh] anywhere near her." Nurse then took Victim to a new room and registered her under a pseudonym.

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¶14 Victim spoke with Doctor again in the new room, and she was now "more open in her response[s]" to his questions. She told him that she was there because Welsh "had been harming her," not because of an ATV accident. When Doctor asked for clarification, Victim "indicated that he had harmed her, grasping her by the throat and shaking her." Victim also said, "[he] got ahold of me again" and "he had kidnapped me."[3]

¶15 After examining Victim, Doctor concluded that she "hadn't sustained a serious injury" and that there wasn't "any marking or bruising, signs of any fractures, or significant injuries at the time." Based on Victim's claims and Welsh's "demeanor," however, Doctor diagnosed Victim with "domestic abuse of adult" and "post traumatic stress disorder."

Welsh Returns to the Apartment

¶16 Sometime later that night, Welsh went back to Victim's apartment. He told Roommate that he was there to get Victim's clothing, but Roommate "told him he couldn't have it and that he wasn't welcome in [her] house." Welsh then asked Roommate "whose stuff was in the living room." Roommate responded that the stuff belonged to Victim's brother (Brother), who also lived in the apartment.

¶17 After Welsh left, Brother arrived and noticed the front door was kicked in. Roommate "was in hysterics, freaking out, crying," and she kept saying to Brother, "He took your sister. He took your sister." Brother "immediately" knew that Roommate was talking about Welsh. When Brother walked through the apartment, he saw that the bathroom was "ransacked" and that the bathroom

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door was "broken completely off the hinges." To Brother, the apartment looked "terrorized" and like "a mess."

¶18 Brother called 911, and as he was talking to the emergency operator, he went out to the apartment's balcony. While there, he saw "Welsh not even 30 yards away." Brother and Welsh locked eyes as the police came "around the corner," at which point Welsh "proceeded to take off."

Investigation and Text Messages

¶19 One of the responding officers (Officer) took photographs of what he found in the apartment. These included photographs of the splintered front door frame; the front door's strike plate, which was lying on the floor; the bathroom door, which was broken off its hinges; a cut-up cord on the living room floor; and a black glove lying near the cut-up cord, which Roommate later identified as one of the gloves that Welsh was wearing when he broke into the apartment.

¶20 After photographing the scene, Officer spoke with Victim on the phone. At this point, Victim had left the hospital and was now at a friend's apartment. Later that night, Officer went and interviewed Victim in person. When he met her, Officer thought that Victim seemed "scared and paranoid." Officer also noticed some redness on Victim's neck and an injury on one of her hands. Although these injuries "were not overwhelming," they "appear[ed] to be fresh," so Officer photographed them.

¶21 During the interview, Victim showed Officer a series of text messages on her phone. They were sent from someone who was identified as "Harleyy" in her contacts, and there was a phone number linked to that contact. A timestamp indicated that Victim had received the first text at 9:08 p.m. that night, and one of the later texts had a timestamp of 9:20 p.m. Officer took photographs of those texts, and he later testified that he took the photographs at 9:27 p.m.

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¶22 Those text messages, without alteration, read as follows:

• "So you reported me to the police now? And now there looking for me."
• "Am I right"
• "Liar your brother isn't in orem"
• "DID U CALL THE COPS AND REPORT ME? YES OR NO?"
• "WHEN WE BOTH AGREE ON THINGS AND GET BACK TO LIVING A REAL LIFE"
• "I DO TRULY LOVE YOU AND I JUST WANTED MY WIFE AND NOW THIS AGAIN. I JUST WANTED YOU TO HOLD ME TIGHTLY AND SAY THINGS WILL GET BETTER"
• "I KNOW YOU WERE HOME AND THE COPS WERE THERE LOOKING. SO DID YOU FILE
...

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