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Echols v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

May 6, 2015

BRUCE ALLEN ECHOLS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE SALINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CR-12-513A-3. HONORABLE GRISHAM PHILLIPS, JUDGE.

The Burns Law Firm, PLLC, by: James D. Burns and Jack D. Burns, for appellant.

Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Karen Virginia Wallace, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge. KINARD and GLOVER, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 353

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

Appellant Bruce Allen Echols was convicted of four counts of aggravated robbery, each of which occurred during a bank robbery at First Security Bank in Benton on September 6, 2012. Mr. Echols was sentenced to four concurrent thirty-year prison terms, and he now appeals.[1]

On appeal, Mr. Echols argues tat his arrest was pretextual, not supported by probable cause, and therefore illegal. Mr. Echols contends that, because he was illegally arrested, the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his custodial statements to the police, as well as physical evidence obtained pursuant to a subsequent search warrant that was in part based on those custodial statements. Mr. Echols asserts that all of this incriminating evidence was derived from his illegal detention, and that it should have been excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree.[2] We affirm.

Page 354

In reviewing the denial of a motion to suppress evidence, this court conducts a de novo review based on the totality of the circumstances, reviewing findings of historical facts for clear error and determining whether those facts give rise to reasonable suspicion or probable cause, giving due weight to inferences drawn by the trial court. King v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 81, 432 S.W.3d 127. We defer to the trial court's credibility and weight-of-the-evidence determinations, and we reverse only if the court's decision is clearly against the preponderance of the evidence. Gilbert v. State, 2010 Ark.App. 857, 379 S.W.3d 774.

On September 6, 2012, First Security Bank was robbed by a man wearing a camouflage t-shirt, blue jeans with a white object hanging out of the right rear pocket, and a black mask over his face. The robber wielded what appeared to be a black handgun, and he was seen leaving in a white Hyundai Sonata.

On September 8, 2012, the Benton Police Department received a report from an AT& T phone store in Bryant of suspicious behavior involving a man making unusually large purchases with cash. The police spotted a white Hyundai Sonata leaving the AT& T parking lot that day and stopped the car for an illegal lane change and failure to wear a seat belt.

The driver of the Hyundai was appellant's brother, Terry Echols, and he consented to a search of the vehicle. During the search, the police discovered certain items of clothing matching that worn by the robber at First Security Bank in the trunk of the car, including jeans, the shoes worn in the robbery, and a black mask. A twenty-dollar bill was found in Terry Echols's wallet that was confirmed to have been stolen from the bank, and money recovered from the AT& T store was also found to have been stolen from the bank.

Upon questioning, Terry Echols told the police that the car belonged to his mother but that his brother, Bruce Echols, drove it all the time. Terry advised that he was borrowing the vehicle from Bruce that day, that he was aware of the robbery but was not involved, and that he had received money from Bruce and used it to buy items from the AT& T store.

Based on Terry's statements, the police developed Bruce Echols as a suspect in the robbery. The police arrested Bruce on September 8, 2012, on a pre-existing arrest warrant dated August 20, 2012, for failure to appear in district court on the misdemeanor charge of second-degree terroristic threatening. ...


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