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Ronk v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

February 24, 2016



Louis L. Loyd, for appellant.

Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


Appellant appeals from his conviction in circuit court of kidnapping.[1] On appeal, appellant's sole argument is that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict on his kidnapping charge. We affirm.

Appellant was arrested on February 28, 2014, and charged by information with kidnapping on March 12, 2014.[2] A trial on the matter was held on April 10, 2015. The testimony was as follows.

Brittney Morgan, a convenience store employee, testified to seeing a "small elderly lady" come in the store who had been crying, was "shy and nervous, " and "seemed terrified and as if she wanted to tell [Morgan] something." The lady told her she had just "escaped" from her son's house; that she was "scared" of him; that she was "trying to get away"; and that her son "abused her, choked her and locked her in a room" that she had been in for "awhile." The more the lady talked, the farther she backed away from the store's door. The lady stated that she wanted Morgan to call the police when asked. She told Morgan that she "didn't want to go back to her son's home" and said she was "terrified" of him. The woman was later identified as appellant's mother, Kazuko Ronk ("Ms. Kay").[3]

Lieutenant Corey Sanders, of the Magnolia Police Department at the time, testified that he responded to Morgan's call to police. He found Ms. Kay in the store appearing as if she were trying to hide. He described her as having a "shaky" voice, "messy" hair, and dirty clothing with a "really strong odor about her body." Ms. Kay told him that she was afraid of her son; "did not want her son to find her"; and wanted to get out of her son's home because he "hits her, had been kicking her and he locked the doors so she could not go outside." When asked if she locked herself in her room or if appellant locked her in her room, she stated that "[appellant] locked [her] in." She told him that her son had choked her on four or five occasions, had "struck her across the top of her back and shoulders with a metal pipe or metal rod, " and had threatened her with a gun "many times." She said he used a black gun with a red light that he would shine in her eyes while telling her that he would kill her the "next time." She stated that she believed he was going to kill her. She identified appellant as her son. Lieutenant Sanders admitted that he knew of no reports of abuse or domestic violence by Ms. Kay to police.

Lieutenant Sanders helped execute a search warrant on appellant's house, at which time appellant was arrested without issue. Lieutenant Sanders described the home as "completely trashed" with "anything you can imagine piled a couple feet high all through the house." He testified that while one can lock most bedroom doors from the inside, the door knob to Ms. Kay's room "had been reversed where you could lock it from the outside." There was evidence that "extra measures had been taken to secure the doors where [Ms. Kay] couldn't open them from the inside, with nail and wood screws." He noted seeing a throw latch on the rear door that appeared to have once been screwed down, but the screws were missing. Ms. Kay told him that she had removed the screws.

Ms. Kay testified that before the last year and a half-"it started getting bad about a year and half" ago-she could move around the house, smoke on the porch and go for walks. She testified that she eventually could not walk anywhere because of the "lock on the door; [appellant] lock [sic] the door every time" and there was "no exit." She did not state exactly when these limitations were imposed. She also testified that "there came a time when [she] couldn't get out of [her] room" for what she believed was two weeks' time though she was "not exactly sure."

She testified that appellant put a pillow over her face once so that she could not breathe. She stated that appellant had kicked her; choked her; threatened her with a gun, fired shots in her room four times; and hit her with a pipe. She stated that she was "always scared of [appellant], " but she never left because she "never [thought she] could get out."

Regarding the day she ran away, she said she turned up the sound on the television to make appellant believe she was watching it while she ran away. She said she was hiding behind a counter in the store because she was "so scared he [sic] come in, follow [her]."

Jessica Ronk, appellant's wife, testified that the lock on the door on Ms. Kay's room was "on backwards to where the lock was on the living room side of the door" and that the door was "always" locked. She denied believing Ms. Kay was in danger. She agreed that Ms. Kay "liked to walk, " was "pretty free to do what she wanted to do" and "always came back" at an earlier time, but stated that Ms. Kay's going out of her room "became less and less" with her not being allowed to go anywhere and her walks stopping "within a year" of their arrest.[4]

Jessica denied seeing appellant physically abuse Ms. Kay, asserting that she was not allowed in the room during their arguments, but she testified to hearing Ms. Kay "calling, falling, crying" and hearing things "being knocked off." She heard appellant tell Ms. Kay that he would kill her "many times" and that he "wished [Ms. Kay] were dead." She stated that appellant "always had a weapon on him, " had fired shots from his gun in the home, and that her stepdaughters were present when he did so. She testified that she had previously withheld information because she was "afraid to tell the truth" and "afraid" of appellant. She stated that the last three years had "a lot of drug use"; "a lot of guns"; and "a lot of violence, both physical, verbal, ...

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