FROM THE MILLER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 46CR-14-8]
HONORABLE RANDY WRIGHT, JUDGE
Phillip A. McGough, P.A., by: Phillip A. McGough, for
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
DAN KEMP, Chief Justice
Miller County jury found appellant Virginia Hyatt
("Virginia") guilty of the capital murder of
Patricia Wheelington ("Patricia"). Virginia was
sentenced to a term of life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole. For reversal, Virginia contends that
the circuit court erred by denying her motion for directed
verdict on the charge of capital murder because the State
failed to prove that she committed the murder or that she
acted with premeditation and deliberation. We affirm.
Before the Murder
and her husband, James Hyatt ("James"), met
Patricia and her husband, Ray Wheelington,  at the Guys &
Dolls Club (the "Club") in Texarkana, where
Patricia and Ray taught square dancing. Virginia and James
attended dances and lessons at the Club. In 2009, James and
Patricia began having an affair.
along with several members of the Club-Eddy "Reese"
Baker, Harvey Cook, Barbara Ricketts, and Phyllis
Nabors-testified that Virginia is a jealous person and that
she would frequently accost other women who attempted to
dance with James at Club events. Barbara testified that
Virginia often complained about marital problems and blamed
everything on Patricia. Multiple witnesses testified that
they had heard Virginia say that she hated Patricia.
November 2013, James decided to divorce Virginia. He
testified that he had contemplated divorce for a while and
that he and Virginia had been sleeping in separate bedrooms
for at least ten years. James stated that he finally decided
that he had to leave because he was afraid that Virginia was
going to kill him. His fear stemmed, in part, from
conversations he had with his sisters and his knowledge that
Virginia had a gun.
testified that the week before Thanksgiving 2013, his sisters
told him that they feared Virginia might harm him. His sister
Sheila told him that she "[had] word through [one of
their relatives] that Virginia Ann is concerned about you
committing suicide because of your failed relationship with
[Patricia]." James said that suicide was the
"[f]urthest thing from [his] mind, " but after
hearing what Virginia had said, he "believed [he] was
dead." James retained a divorce attorney but asked that
the attorney not file the divorce complaint until he was
safely out of town for fear that Virginia would harm him or
knew that Virginia had a .38-caliber revolver that he had
purchased for her, and he said that Virginia was "a lot
better shot than [he] was." On Thursday, November 28,
2013, during Thanksgiving dinner, Sheila asked Virginia if
she still had the gun. Virginia responded that she and James
lost the gun during their move from Doddridge to Texarkana.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Friday, November 29, while Virginia was visiting her mother
at a nursing home, James left town with his sister Debra and
headed to Miami, Florida. He testified that Debra took him to
Florida to "save [his] life." Virginia called James
several times while he was traveling. James answered the
first call and told Virginia that he was leaving and was not
coming back. Patricia had left town that morning for a trip
to New Orleans. James said that he called Patricia repeatedly
and told her that she should not return to Texarkana because
Virginia was distraught.
afternoon, Virginia called Phyllis, "hysterical"
and "just screaming he's gone, he's gone."
Virginia told Phyllis that James was with Patricia. Phyllis
and Virginia spent part of the afternoon driving around to
look for James. Virginia also called Patricia's cell
phone that afternoon and left four voicemail messages between
2:16 p.m. and 2:22 p.m. In the audible portions of the
voicemail messages, Virginia can be heard pleading with
Patricia to send James back to her.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
left Patricia another voicemail message at 7:58 a.m. on
Saturday, November 30, stating, "Patty, please, please
give me my husband back. Please give me my husband back.
Please, it's horrible. I need my husband back. You can
get any man you see anywhere. Please give me my husband back,
please. Call me back. Are you there? Can you hear me? Please
call me back."
4.Sunday, December 1, 2013
called Club member Reese Baker on Sunday morning, asking if
he knew where James and Patricia were. Virginia told Reese
that James had left her on Friday and that she believed James
and Patricia were together. Reese said that Virginia told him
that she had driven by Patricia's house "at least
twice" that weekend to see if James was there. She also
drove by several motels looking for James's or
Patricia's vehicle. Virginia called Reese again on Sunday
afternoon and asked him if he had heard from either James or
Patricia. Reese told her that he had not.
night, Barbara, Phyllis, Harvey, and Patricia played cards at
Barbara's house. Phyllis testified, "I told
[Patricia] . . . I will try to keep Virginia away from you. I
know she's going to harass you, you know, she just
won't get it out of her mind that you and James were
together. And [Patricia] said, well, if you're going to
be with Virginia maybe you know I'll just kind of
distance myself a little bit from you." Phyllis
responded, "[W]ell, if I know where you are then
I'll know where not to take her."
December 2, 2013
Monday morning, Virginia went to Patricia's house and
confronted her. At 7:41 a.m., Patricia texted James and said,
"Virginia is here at the house and wants you to call
her." James testified that he called Virginia while she
was on the porch with Patricia and told her to leave Patricia
alone. He told Virginia that he was out of state and that he
was not coming back. At 7:48 a.m., Patricia texted James
again, stating, "Thank u, she left." That
afternoon, Phyllis sent a text message to Patricia and said,
"Just talked to virginia I am sorry she came out there I
told her that is exactly why she dont have a husband but she
want [sic] listen."
Monday evening, several members convened for dance class at
the Club. Barbara testified that when she arrived for class,
she noticed that Patricia was "pale, " so she asked
her what was wrong. Patricia said that Virginia had come to
her house that morning and was "ranting and raving and
screaming and throwing a fit looking for James." Barbara
said that Patricia's exact words were "Virginia has
got me freaked out."
arrived at the Club at approximately 7:00 p.m. Phyllis got to
the Club about ten minutes later and noticed that Virginia
was "staring a hole through" Patricia, so she
suggested to Virginia that they leave and go play bingo.
Virginia rode with Phyllis to the bingo parlor, and after
they played one session, Phyllis took Virginia home.
that night, Virginia returned to the Club with a red shirt
that belonged to James. Testimony at trial revealed that
Virginia confronted Patricia, threw the shirt at her, and
said, "[Y]ou give it to him, you'll see him before I
will." Patricia told Club members that she feared
Virginia would be waiting for her when she got home. Reese
testified that Patricia said she "hoped Virginia
didn't come up on her porch again in the morning like she
did that morning."
Day of the Murder, Tuesday, December 3, 2013
records indicate that on Tuesday, December 3, at 7:57 a.m.,
an outgoing call from Patricia's phone was made to her
friend Ken Caldwell. The call lasted one minute and fifty-two
seconds. Shortly thereafter, at around 8:00 a.m.,
neighbors heard five or six gunshots coming from the
direction of Patricia's house. At 8:55 a.m., Barbara sent
Patricia a message, stating, "Did she show up on your
porch again today?" Patricia did not respond.
testified that Virginia came to her house at around 10:00
a.m. that morning. Phyllis said that she "chewed
[Virginia] out" for returning to the Club the night
before and told her that she had to stop harassing Patricia.
Phyllis said that Virginia told her, "You and [Patricia]
are my only friends." Phyllis responded, "[W]hat
are you talking about . . . you have been accusing her of
being with your husband for four days and now you want to
tell me she's your friend . . . I said that ain't
going to get it. I said and if you don't quit going out
there harassing her, I knew you was on that porch, she'd
never said a word to me the morning before." A few
minutes later, Phyllis noticed that Virginia was smiling.
Phyllis said that Virginia "hadn't smiled in four
days" and hadn't "quit whimpering in four days,
where's my James, where's my James." That day,
however, Virginia did not mention his name. Phyllis said that
she did not know what had happened but she knew
"something was different" because Virginia was
"grinning from ear to ear." At 10:06 a.m., Phyllis
texted Patricia, "Just text if u r ok virginia is very
unstable n I am worried."
Patricia failed to return missed phone calls and text
messages for the rest of the day, Barbara and Phyllis went to
check on Patricia at her house. Around 5:30 p.m., Barbara
found Patricia--she had been shot to death on the porch of
her home. Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Erickson
testified that Patricia had died of multiple gunshot wounds
and that the manner of death was homicide. Specifically, Dr.
Erickson testified that an examination of Patricia's body
revealed five gunshot wounds. One wound was located on the
right chest, just below the clavicle. Erickson stated that
this wound struck both lung lobes and would have been fatal
in and of itself. A second wound was discovered on the right
breast. This wound also went through both lung lobes and
would have been fatal in and of itself. A third wound was
discovered in the fold of Patricia's armpit. Erickson
stated that this wound struck the lungs, "devastated the
heart, " and would have been "rapidly fatal."
He stated that the three wounds "produce[d] an almost
immediate loss of blood pressure throughout the body."
Patricia would have collapsed in about fifteen to twenty
seconds. Two other wounds were found-one on the upper back
and one on the right forearm. Erickson testified that neither
wound would have been independently fatal. He further
testified that stippling on Patricia's lips, chin, and nose
indicated that at least one of the shots was fired from as
close as three feet.
After the Murder
responding to the crime scene and gathering information,
officers from the Texarkana Police Department went to
Virginia's home around 2:00 a.m. on December 4. Detective
Paul Nall called Virginia and asked her to surrender herself
outside. After several minutes, she walked outside and was
placed under arrest. When officers entered the house ...