FROM THE JOHNSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 36CR-15-89]
HONORABLE WILLIAM M. PEARSON, JUDGE
Law Firm, by: Michael Kiel Kaiser and William O.
"Bill" James, Jr., for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
Fred Albert Kauffeld appeals his convictions for first-degree
murder, second-degree murder, and residential burglary
following a jury trial in Johnson County Circuit Court.
Kauffeld was charged in relation to a break-in at the home of
Bill Nobles and the subsequent shooting of Sonny Smith, an
auxiliary sheriff's deputy who had responded to the call.
On appeal, Kauffeld argues that the trial court erred (1) in
denying his motion for directed verdict that challenged the
sufficiency of the State's evidence on each conviction,
and (2) in admitting a statement written on a jail-cell wall
into evidence due to lack of proper authentication. We
first appellate issues we consider are the
sufficiency-of-the-evidence arguments. On appeal, the
appellate courts treat a motion for directed verdict as a
challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Anderson v.
State, 2011 Ark. 461, 385 S.W.3d 214. The appellate
court determines whether the verdict is supported by
substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Id.
Substantial evidence is evidence that is forceful enough to
compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or
conjecture. Id. The evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the verdict, and only evidence supporting
the verdict will be considered. Starling v. State,
2016 Ark. 20, 480 S.W.3d 158. Variances and discrepancies in
the proof go to the weight or credibility of the evidence and
are matters for the fact-finder to resolve. Id. The
trier of fact is free to believe all or part of any
witness's testimony and may resolve questions of
conflicting testimony and inconsistent evidence. Id.
Accordingly, when there is evidence of a defendant's
guilt, even if it is conflicting, it is for the jury as
fact-finder to resolve, not the court. Id.
evidence may constitute substantial evidence to support a
conviction. Brunson v. State, 368 Ark. 313, 245
S.W.3d 132 (2006). Guilt can be established without direct
evidence, and evidence of guilt is not less because it is
circumstantial. Id. Circumstantial evidence is
substantial when it excludes every other reasonable
hypothesis than that of guilt. Id. We will disturb
the jury's determination only if the evidence did not
meet the required standards so that the jury had to speculate
and use conjecture to reach its verdict. Richardson v.
State, 2014 Ark.App. 679, 449 S.W.3d 718. The
sufficiency of the evidence is determined on the basis of the
record as it stands, considering all the evidence heard at
trial, whether properly or erroneously admitted. Bovee v.
State, 2011 Ark.App. 158.
evidence at trial, viewed most favorably to the State,
revealed the following. At the time of the crimes in May
2015, Kauffeld was involved in a "love triangle."
Nancy Deatherage had on-again-off-again relationships with
both Kauffeld and Bill Nobles, and they all knew each
other. On the night of May 14, 2015, Deatherage
called Kauffeld to come get her from Nobles's mobile
home, located off a rural Johnson County road. Nobles was not
home when Kauffeld arrived. Deatherage and Kauffeld gathered
her dog and some personal belongings; Kauffeld took
Deatherage to his house, which was about ten miles away, and
left her there.
drove his truck back to the mobile home and went back inside,
but Nobles returned, chasing Kauffeld out of his home and
yelling at him. Nobles found a rifle that Kauffeld had
dropped outside; Nobles took it inside and locked up his
house. Nobles then went looking for Kauffeld, finding his
truck parked about a quarter mile from the mobile home.
Nobles slashed two of the truck's tires. When Nobles went
back home, he discovered broken glass on his deck and that
the rifle was no longer there. Nobles then went to his
parents' house to call the police.
Deputy Sheriff Sonny Smith and Deputy Curtis Bishop responded
to the call, meeting Nobles at the mobile home. Nobles told
them that someone had broken in and might still be inside.
Nobles reported that several items were missing. Nobles told
them that the perpetrator had a rifle, but he did not tell
them that the perpetrator was appellant.
Jeff Wood arrived and began to drive back and forth along the
country road beside Nobles's home, using his
vehicle's spotlight to search for the suspect. A canine
unit was added to the search party. The dog picked up a scent
and followed it toward a wire fence. Law enforcement's
infrared heat sensor picked up a heat source on the other
side of the fence where the dog was trying to lead them.
Smith was the first to climb over the fence. Smith then
yelled, "Show me your-" when shots were fired from
the direction of the heat source. Law enforcement personnel
described these shots as sounding like "pops, "
whereas a second set of shots that followed were louder and
sounded more like "banging." Smith suffered a
gunshot wound to the torso and thigh; Smith dropped to the
ground, and he died.
was arrested by the other officers on scene, and nearby they
found a black backpack, a plastic container of loose change,
a cell phone, a clock, a flashlight, and a sex toy. Nobles
confirmed that those items came from his home and that he did
not give anyone permission to take the items. Law enforcement
determined that, given the subsequent examination of the
scene, appellant had shot his Marlin .22 rifle at Smith, and
Smith had shot his .45-caliber service weapon at appellant.
testified that she never asked appellant to go back to
Nobles's house to retrieve her things. She denied giving
appellant permission to go back inside or asking him to get a
container of loose change or a sex toy.
testified that he drove his truck to Nobles's house that
night, that he went armed with a rifle, that he reentered
when he returned to the house, and that he took items from
the house that did not belong to him. Appellant maintained
that his only intent upon entering was to recover
Deatherage's things so she would not have to go back.
Appellant said that he ran and hid from Nobles when Nobles
caught him there. He said that he hurt his knee as he was
running away from the mobile home. Because Nobles was hunting
for him, appellant hid in a low spot about halfway between
the mobile home and his truck, near the dirt road. Appellant
stated that he decided to stay hidden until daylight, and
then he would find a way home. Appellant claimed that he fell
asleep in his hiding place after a while and that he did not
hear or see law enforcement looking for him.
admitted that he had shot and killed Smith but said that he
had been taken by surprise in the darkness. Appellant said
that he thought it was Nobles coming after him, that he
feared for his life, that the person shot at him first, and
that he only shot in self defense.
State also presented evidence to the jury of a writing found
on appellant's jail-cell wall, where he had been housed
awaiting trial. This is a verbatim rendition of the writing: