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King v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

November 28, 2018



          Hancock Law Firm, by: Charles D. Hancock, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kent G. Holt, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          LARRYD. VAUGHT, Judge

         Charles Dwight King, Jr., was convicted by a Boone County Circuit Court jury of raping AF (born July 16, 2009). On appeal, Charles challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the rape conviction and argues that the circuit court abused its discretion in excluding an order of appointment of emergency temporary guardian of AF. We affirm.

         In September 2016, AF was seven years old and lived with her grandmother, Elaine Files, in Omaha, Arkansas.[1] Elaine and AF lived in a one-bathroom trailer that was connected by a porch to an adjacent trailer.[2] Charles lived in the adjacent trailer. Elaine testified that she was sixty-three years old and had known Charles, who was fifty-four years old at the time of trial, since she was in her thirties when they "went together."

         Elaine testified that AF was often in and out of Charles's trailer. Elaine stated that there was a period of a few months when she was remodeling the bathroom in her trailer, and she and AF used the bathroom in Charles's trailer. Elaine further testified that AF was never alone with Charles at night except for on one occasion near the end of September 2016 when Elaine left AF in Charles's care because Elaine stayed the night at the hospital with Brittany, who was pregnant, after Brittany had been in a car accident.

         On October 11, 2016, Elaine was contacted by someone at AF's school and informed that AF had been acting inappropriately. When Elaine asked AF about her behavior and if anyone had touched her inappropriately, AF said yes and identified Charles. Elaine called Charles and told him what AF had said. Elaine said that Charles denied the allegations, but she told him she believed AF and not to come home. Elaine then called local law enforcement, and an investigation followed.

         Melanie Sonnette Panell testified that she lives in Springfield, Missouri, with her husband Jarrod Panell. Sonnette has three children with Robert, who have been adopted by Jarrod. Elaine and AF lived with Sonnette and her family in Springfield from 2006 to 2009, and AF lived with Sonnette for a few months in 2015. After AF returned to Elaine in 2015, Sonnette filed for guardianship of AF based on allegations that Elaine and AF were living in a run-down trailer that did not have water or electricity and that Charles is an alcoholic. Sonnette testified that a decree denying her request for guardianship was entered in August 2016. After the 2016 decree was entered, Sonnette testified that there was no communication between Elaine and Sonnette or between Sonnette and AF.

         Sonnette also testified that Brittany and Robert told her about the allegations that Charles had sexually abused AF, and Sonnette immediately filed for emergency temporary guardianship of AF, which was granted on October 24, 2016. Sonnette has had custody of AF since that time.[3]

         The parties stipulated to the body-camera recording of Scott Hornaday, a Boone County sheriff's deputy, in lieu of his testimony. Scott was the officer who responded to Elaine's call. Elaine reported to Scott that AF told her Charles had been touching her, that he had her touch him, and that it had happened several times. Scott directed Elaine and AF to the sheriff's department.

         Ryan Watson, corporal investigator for the Boone County Sheriff's Office, testified that he met with Elaine and AF at the sheriff's office where Elaine reported that Charles had licked AF's "privates." Ryan arranged for Elaine and AF to be seen at Grandma's House Children's Advocacy Center (Grandma's House) where Ryan observed AF's interview. Thereafter, Ryan sought to interview Charles but could not locate him. Ryan testified that his department actively searched for Charles but was unable to locate him until October 25, 2016. When Charles was brought in for questioning, Charles denied the charges against him and claimed that Elaine had coached AF to make the sexual-abuse allegations. Nevertheless, Ryan believed that he had probable cause to arrest Charles and did arrest him.

          AF was eight years old when she testified at trial. She stated that things would happen with Charles in his trailer when Elaine was not there or when she was taking a nap, using the computer, or watching TV. AF testified that the night Elaine stayed at the hospital with Brittany, she (AF) stayed the night in Charles's bed but that nothing happened. However, she said on other occasions, Charles touched her where she went to the bathroom with his mouth and hand. She said that he rubbed her there, it hurt, and she could not go to the bathroom later. She said that it happened at bath time and that it happened more than once. AF further testified that Charles got into the bathtub with her and made her wash and suck his penis. AF said that on other occasions, Charles kissed her on the mouth, licked her nipples, and put his penis in her butt.

         Bryttany Jones, a forensic interviewer at Grandma's House, testified that AF disclosed multiple incidents and multiple forms of maltreatment of a sexual nature. Bryttany also stated that there were things that AF ...

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