Sturm v. Darnell, CASE NO. 2:10-CV-00247

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
Writing for the CourtMark R. Abel
PartiesBRYAN CHRISTOPHER STURM, Petitioner, v. JAMES DARNELL, Acting Superintendent, Respondent.
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:10-CV-00247
Decision Date25 January 2012

JAMES DARNELL, Acting Superintendent, Respondent.

CASE NO. 2:10-CV-00247


Dated: January 25, 2012



Petitioner Bryan Christopher Sturm, a state prisoner, brings this action for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the Magistrate Judge on the petition, Respondent's return of writ, Petitioner's traverse, and the exhibits of the parties. For the reasons that follow, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED.


On November 22, 2004, Petitioner Bryan Christopher Sturm's grandmother and aunt were shot to death. Sturm, then twelve years old, was interrogated by investigating officers. After initially denying any involvement in the deaths, Sturm confessed to discharging a shotgun three times, causing their deaths, and then fleeing the scene. The petition alleges that Sturm was denied his right against self-incrimination, he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel, and he was denied due process of law when the trial court imposed a sentence greater than the maximum term authorized by the jury's verdict.

The Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals summarized the facts and procedural history of this case as follows:

The State of Ohio filed a complaint against Sturm alleging him to be delinquent of two counts of aggravated murder with firearm

Page 2

specifications. The complaint stemmed from a double homicide at the home of Sturm's grandmother, Nancy Tidd. The victims, Nancy Tidd and Emma Tidd (Sturm's aunt), were both found sitting in the living room with gunshot wounds to the head. Autopsy results revealed that in addition to the gunshot wound, Nancy Tidd had a large laceration on the top left side of her head. Police believe this injury was caused by the butt end of the .410 shotgun that was used during the commission of the homicides.
The investigation initially focused on Nancy Tidd's live-in boyfriend, Frank Russell. Detectives placed Russell in an unmarked car at the scene and questioned him about the murders. However, Russell explained that he left for work that day at around 2:45 p.m. He stated he received a call at 4:30 p.m. from Nancy, who informed him that Sturm was at the home. Nancy also told Russell that she believed Sturm had been "huffing" gasoline because she could smell it, but that he seemed "alright." Russell stated that he called home throughout the evening to check on Nancy, as he normally does, but no one answered the phone. Just before 9:00 p.m. Russell stated that he had become worried and told his foreman that he needed to leave work. Following this explanation, Russell ceased being a suspect and the detectives permitted him to go into the residence. Once inside, Russell pointed out that the hinges had been removed from the gun cabinet.
Detective Warden arrived at the crime scene and received a briefing. He learned that the victims were in a relaxed state when shot and that it appeared a .410 shotgun had been used in the commission of the crime. Another officer, Detective Kapple, suggested they locate Sturm because of the report that he "huffed" gasoline. Detective Warden was to locate and interview Sturm.
As the investigators were preparing to leave, another detective approached and informed them that a caller named Rodney West had provided additional information. West had reported that as he was driving home earlier that evening, he picked up a boy walking along State Route 530. The boy told West his name was Chris Sturm and he asked for a ride to Lower Salem. West stated the boy was wearing jeans and shoes, but no shirt, hat or gloves. West drove the boy to Lower Salem and dropped him off at an old abandoned store with apartments above it, where the boy said he lived. Later that evening, upon learning that two women had been shot and that police were looking for the grandson, Chris Sturm, West called the Sheriff's department and relayed the information he had. In light of this new

Page 3

report, the detectives first went to interview West at his residence and then proceeded to Sturm's home.
At 11:35 p.m. the detectives arrived at Sturm's home in an unmarked car, accompanied by a marked cruiser. Detective Warden initially spoke with Sturm's father and informed him of the homicides and asked to speak with Sturm. Detective Warden and Sturm's father were acquainted, having grown up together. Sturm's father gave Detective Warden permission to speak with Sturm but asked to be present. After Warden agreed, Sturm's father introduced Warden as a detective with the Sheriff's office and they all proceeded to the unmarked cruiser. Detective Warden was seated in the front driver's side; Sturm was seated in the front passenger side; Sturm's father was seated in the backseat behind Sturm; and another officer was seated in the back seat behind Detective Warden.
Detective Warden told Sturm, in his father's presence, that he was not under arrest, did not have to speak with them, and that he could leave at any time. Sturm responded that he understood. Detective Warden initially began questioning Sturm by asking him what he had done that day. Sturm responded with a narrative, making some statements that Detective Warden knew were false. Sturm told Detective Warden that he woke up around 1:00 p.m. that day, got dressed and started to walk to school, but decided not to go. Instead, he went back home and "huffed" gasoline for half an hour to an hour. Then, his stepbrother Matt gave him a ride to his grandmother's house, where he fell asleep until around 3:20 p.m. Sturm stated that when he woke up, he asked and received permission from his grandmother to take the .410 shotgun in the backyard to target practice. Sturm stated he took the gun into the backyard, fired two shots at a beer can, went back inside and got into an argument with his grandmother. Sturm stated he put the gun back in the corner and called his uncle, Brad Russell, for a ride home. Sturm stated that when he got home, he took a shower, washed his jeans and watched television.
Detective Warden then asked a series of follow-up questions; based upon Sturm's responses, Detective Warden was convinced Sturm was not telling the truth. Specifically, Detective Warden knew that Sturm had gotten a ride home with Rodney West, not Brad Russell. At that point, Detective Warden asked Sturm's father to exit the vehicle so he could speak with him. Outside the vehicle, Detective Warden told Sturm's father that he knew Sturm was lying and told him about the information they had received from Rodney West. Sturm's father was upset and asked Detective Warden if he should get an attorney.

Page 4

Detective Warden did not answer the father's question, but instead responded that he needed to know the truth. In response, Sturm's father said "Mark, you go ahead and talk to him, but be good to him." Sturm's father then walked towards the house and Detective Warden got back into the vehicle.
When Detective Warden re-entered the vehicle, he asked Sturm again about his ride home from his grandmother's house, giving Sturm an opportunity to tell the truth. However, Sturm again stated that his uncle, Brad Russell gave him a ride home. Detective Warden told Sturm that he was lying and that Rodney West had picked him up and given him a ride home. He then asked Sturm, "Is it a possibility that the weapon could have accidentally gone off, striking your aunt and your grandmother?" Again, Sturm denied this suggestion.
Detective Warden then asked Sturm "What's the biggest thing that you're afraid of right now in this situation?" Sturm responded that "I just don't want my mother and father to know what I have done." At that point, Sturm stated that he shot his aunt accidentally and shot his grandmother because she had been "putting him down."
Sturm then went into a more detailed explanation, stating that his grandmother had given him permission to take the weapon out. When he came back in, his grandmother started putting him down. Sturm stated that he pulled the weapon up to shoot his grandmother and his aunt Emma reached out and grabbed the weapon. Sturm stated that when he went to fire, he accidentally struck his aunt Emma in the side of the head. Sturm then stated that he accidentally discharged the weapon into the wall behind his grandmother, but then reloaded the gun and shot his grandmother in the side of the neck. He then stated that he kicked the shells into the kitchen, put the gun in the laundry room and exited out the back of the residence into the woods. When he started to "sober up," he puked. His shirt had burrs in it so he took his shirt off and threw it down. West picked him up and gave him a ride home. When he got there, he washed his jeans and took a shower. After Detective Warden inquired about the reason for doing this, Sturm said that he was trying to get rid of any gunshot residue.
At that point, Detective Warden read Sturm his Miranda rights and after obtaining a written waiver, he tape recorded Sturm's statement. After Warden turned the tape on, the following conversation began:

Page 5

"MW: Ok. (unintelligible) okay, the time now is 12:19 a.m. Uhh, I am sitting here talking to Chris Sturm. Chris, prior to talking to you I informed you that, first that you were

To continue reading

Request your trial

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