FROM THE STONE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 69CR-16-138],
HONORABLE TIM WEAVER, JUDGE
Alan Jesse, North Little Rock, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass’t Att’y Gen.,
Victoria Ann Dycus appeals her conviction for first-degree
murder in the death of her four-year-old daughter, Skylar
Shellstrom. On appeal, she argues that there was no
substantial evidence that she either struck the child herself
or that she was liable as an accomplice to her boyfriend,
James Hagen Glenn. After having previously ordered
rebriefing, we now reach the merits of the case and affirm
was brought to the emergency room on the evening of November
19, 2016, where she died shortly after arriving. The
emergency room doctor notified law enforcement that he
suspected she died from internal bleeding as the result of
trauma and that she had a significant amount of bruising
consistent with child abuse. The autopsy revealed that Skylar
died from blunt-force abdominal injuries that resulted in
peritonitis due to duodenal rupture. Dr. Stephen Erickson,
the deputy chief medical examiner at the state crime lab,
testified that Skylar had been struck in the stomach and that
her duodenum was nearly transected in half. He testified
that she had been struck hours, not days, before she died and
noted that she would have thrown up any food or drink
ingested after the blow. In addition to this fatal blow, Dr.
Erickson said that there was evidence of scarring and other
signs of the body’s healing response that showed Skylar had
been struck in the stomach before. He said that the blow may
have been a punch, a kick, an elbow, or a knee to the
Erickson testified that Skylar had been the victim of chronic
child abuse as evidenced by a multitude of aging bruises as
well as burns, puncture wounds, and other injuries. He said
that the number, location, and severity of the bruises
indicated child abuse; they were not bruises a child might
normally sustain. These included linear deep bruises across
Skylar’s buttocks and multiple bruises on the back of her
legs and her elbows. She had bruises on both ears indicating
that she had been struck or grabbed as well as bruises on her
scalp, on her forehead, around her eyes, on her forearm, and
on her labia. The tops of Skylar’s feet had significant
bruises, and the bottoms of her feet had multiple puncture
wounds— twenty on one foot and ten on the other. Dr.
Erickson said that some of the puncture wounds were older
than others and that a sharp object had been pushed into her
skin enough to cause some bleeding. He said that the force
used to cause her injuries would have caused pain and likely
crying from a four-year-old child. Skylar also had burn marks
on her nose that Dr. Erickson said would have left a
disfiguring scar. He said that she would have reacted and
should have been seen by a doctor for the burns. Skylar also
had a serious injury to her mouth that Dr. Erickson said was
characteristic of what happens when someone punches a child
in the mouth or shoves something into a child’s mouth. This
strike resulted in a large laceration of the upper part of
Skylar’s lip and had destroyed the frenulum. Dr. Erickson
said that her lip would have bled a lot and been bruised and
that any reasonable person would have understood she was
injured and needed attention.
Investigator Dennis Simons interviewed appellant on the night
Skylar died. Appellant told him that Skylar had been sick off
and on for the past week and had been throwing up, which she
thought was caused from drinking too much soda. She
denied that anyone had hurt Skylar and claimed that Skylar
had been hitting herself hard enough to leave bruises on her
belly and legs. Appellant told Simons that the burns on
Skylar’s nose were caused when Glenn was blow drying her
hair, and Skylar got mad and jerked the blow dryer down onto
her nose. Appellant said that she did not witness this happen
but Glenn told her about it. Glenn had also told her that a
bruise on Skylar’s head was caused by the shower curtain
falling on her.
interviewed appellant again when she was arrested in December
2016, and appellant still denied that anyone had hurt Skylar.
Glenn was charged with first-degree murder at the same time.
A week later, appellant requested to speak with Simons again.
She told Simons that Skylar had initially really liked Glenn,
but for the last week or two before her death she did not
want anything to do with him. Appellant said that while
Skylar was taking a bath one day, she told appellant that
Glenn had hit her four times, but Skylar later recanted when
Glenn questioned her. Appellant said that she did not see
Skylar’s injuries because Glenn did everything for Skylar.
Appellant testified that on November 19, Glenn left their
home at 6:30 a.m. to go hunting. He came back around 9:00
a.m. and watched Skylar while appellant took a shower. Glenn
left again, leaving appellant home alone with Skylar, until
he returned briefly around 2:30 and then again around 5:30.
Appellant said that Skylar watched movies all day and had
oatmeal, juice, and chips but threw up the juice. Appellant
said that when Glenn returned home that evening, ...