FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [60CR-13-2659]
HONORABLE HERBERT THOMAS WRIGHT, JUDGE
Avery, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Ashley Argo Priest, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee
COURTNEY HUDSON GOODSON, Associate Justice
in the Pulaski County Circuit Court found appellant Tony
Lenzaro Brooks guilty of capital murder and abuse of a corpse
for which he received respective terms of life in prison
without parole and thirty years in prison. For reversal,
Brooks contends that the circuit court erred by denying his
motions for directed verdict on the charge of capital murder
because the State failed to prove that he committed the
murder or that he acted with premeditation and deliberation.
We find no merit in these arguments and affirm.
review of the record reflects that at approximately 6:00 a.m.
on June 27, 2013, Shannon Kemp saw smoke rising from the rear
of a vacant storage building on Young Road as he was arriving
for work at his nearby business. Upon inspection, he observed
tires that were on fire and what he thought might be a body
in the debris. Captain Stephen White of the Little Rock Fire
Department confirmed that the fire did contain the body of a
white female. The remains proved to be those of Amy Mae
Hughett. White testified that Hughett was lying on the ground
with tires and plastic tubing on top of her. The fire had
consumed one tire. The body and another tire were still
smoldering, and Hughett was severely burned from the waist
down. White stated that he detected a petroleum-type scent at
the fire, and he said that the use of an accelerant is
necessary for tires to burn. He could not say how long the
fire had been burning, but he testified that such a fire
could potentially burn for hours. Debris from the fire and
some of Hughett's clothing tested positive for gasoline.
Alexander, who is Brooks's mother, testified that in June
2013, Brooks lived either with her and her former boyfriend,
Gary Saulsberry, in a home on Eagle Drive or with her mother
in a house down the street. During the early morning hours of
June 27, 2013, Alexander received a phone call from Brooks
wherein he asked her to pick him up at a location on Geyer
Springs Road. Testimony revealed that this area is in the
vicinity of Young Road, where Hughett's body was found.
Alexander testified that after they returned home, Brooks
left in a white Jeep Grand Cherokee that was registered in
Saulsberry's name. She acknowledged that she had called
the police to report Brooks's unauthorized use of the
vehicle. She also telephoned Brooks and told him that the
police had been alerted. Alexander subsequently advised the
police that, before he left in the Jeep, Brooks had
threatened to kill her if she awakened Saulsberry.
sister, Earlmesha Coleman, testified that Brooks appeared at
her doorstep early that same morning and asked her to return
the Jeep to their grandmother's home on Eagle Drive. She
agreed and drove the Jeep while her boyfriend, Timothy
Clemmons, drove their children and Brooks in another vehicle.
Coleman testified that the Jeep smelled of fumes that gave
her a headache. In his testimony, Clemmons stated that Brooks
confessed to killing Hughett during the ride that morning to
Eagle Drive. Coleman also testified that Brooks subsequently
advised her not to testify by pleading "the Fifth"
and told her that he would hurt her if she "ever got
consented to a search of the Jeep the day that Hughett's
body was discovered. Detective Brad Silas testified that the
windows of the vehicle were rolled down and that he detected
the strong odor of either gas or some kind of cleaning
chemical. Detective Jordan Neufer also testified that he
noticed the odor of gasoline in the vehicle. Detective Matt
Hoffine took part in the investigation, and he, too, smelled
gasoline or a petroleum-based chemical emanating from the
Jeep. Hoffine also observed brownish stains on the front
passenger seat that appeared to be blood. Testing revealed
that the stains were indeed blood and that the blood matched
Hughett's DNA profile with all scientific certainty.
Charles Kokes performed Hughett's autopsy. He noted that
there was extensive thermal damage to the lower half of her
body. Even so, Hughett was intact internally, and Kokes was
able to swab her vaginal area to determine the presence of
foreign DNA. Kokes testified that Hughett had sustained a
multitude of blunt-force injuries in the form of abrasions,
contusions, and lacerations. Hughett had contusions over much
of her forehead, her eyes, the left side of her face, and her
shoulders. Linear abrasions were scattered over her face and
shoulders. Hughett's upper right forehead bore a large
laceration. Another large laceration was located in front of
her right ear, and she had lacerations both over and under
her right eye, as well as the inside surface area of that
eye. There was a laceration above the bridge of her nose and
scrapes on the nose and surfaces of her lips. The inner
linings of both lips were also lacerated and torn. Kokes
testified that injuries to Hughett's face were caused by
different applications of force.
found no external injuries to the back of her head. However,
when he examined her head internally, he found a wide area of
hemorrhage, or bruising, in the scalp on the right side that
was caused by blunt-force trauma. Kokes testified that the
blunt-force injuries to Hughett's body were caused by a
physical object, and not a fist. He said that all of these
injuries, because they were placed in different locations and
involved multiple applications of force, indicated a
prolonged and violent struggle. Kokes also noted the presence
of defensive-type wounds on Hughett's arms and hands.
testified that he also found evidence of strangulation. He
detected a number of linear injuries to the front and both
sides of Hughett's neck. Internally, Kokes also observed
multiple areas of hemorrhaging into the strap muscles of the
neck. He determined that Hughett had sustained fractures of
the hyoid bone and bilateral fractures of the thyroid
cartilage. Kokes found petechial hemorrhaging in her eyes and
evidence of bleeding into the musculature of the tongue.
Kokes stated that each of these findings taken together
indicated strangulation. He concluded that the cause of death
was blunt-force trauma and strangulation.
further testified that a person can lose consciousness in as
little as ten to fifteen seconds after force is applied to
the neck. He said that it requires prolonged pressure on the
neck for a period of time, usually several minutes, to cause
sufficient oxygen deprivation to result in death by
Hof, a DNA examiner at the Arkansas State Crime Lab,
testified that the vaginal swabs taken from Hughett contained
a mixture of DNA from Hughett and a foreign individual. The
DNA profile foreign to Hughett's matched Brooks's DNA
with all scientific certainty.
testimony, Brooks stated that he had met Hughett several
weeks before her death and that he had sexual relations with
her on June 26, 2013, between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 5:00
p.m. He said that the encounter took place at
Saulsberry's home and that she left the house when it
concluded. Brooks denied killing Hughett. He testified that
he gave his brother a ride to his girlfriend's house that
night and that he had picked up two men on Eagle Drive upon
his return. Brooks stated that he turned on the interior
light of the vehicle to complete a drug sale with the men and
saw that Carter Miller, the one ...