FROM THE STONE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 69CR-16-138]
HONORABLE TIM WEAVER, JUDGE
Alan Jesse, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Chris R. Warthen, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, JUDGE
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 appellant's conviction.
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
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
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
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, Skylar told him that
she was feeling better, but shortly thereafter she slid out
of a chair onto the floor and was unresponsive.
claimed that she was unaware of most of the bruises and marks
on Skylar because Glenn took care of her and Skylar usually
bathed and dressed herself. She said that Skylar never
complained about being hurt, she never saw Skylar bleeding,
and she never saw Glenn strike her. Appellant said that on
November 9, Skylar went to the store with Glenn and defecated
in her pants. Appellant then gave her a bath, and Skylar told
her that Glenn had hit her "really hard" four times
in the stomach. When appellant told Glenn, he asked Skylar
when this happened and she said it happened that day.
Appellant testified that he questioned her again after her
bath, however, and she said it did not happen. Appellant said
that the blow-dryer incident also occurred on November 9 and
that she was in the bedroom while Glenn and Skylar were in
the bathroom. She said that Skylar did not scream, but she
heard Glenn tell Skylar to "go show your mom."
Appellant said that on November 13, Glenn told her that
Skylar had pulled the shower curtain down on herself and
pointed out the bruise near her eye. She claimed that on
November 16, Skylar told her that Glenn had said he was going
to kill Skylar and appellant; appellant asked Glenn and he
denied it. Appellant said that Skylar had started biting
Glenn and not letting him pick her up and had started hitting
herself and defecating in her pants. They gave her cold
showers to deal with this, but appellant said that she last
bathed Skylar on November 13. Appellant testified that she
now believed Glenn had been abusing Skylar.
sister, Brandie Lee, testified that she last saw Skylar on
November 11. Appellant told her that the bruise above
Skylar's eye was caused by her pulling the shower curtain
down on herself and that the burn marks on her nose were
caused by the blow dryer. Lee testified that she did not
believe the blow-dryer story because it did not make sense
that a small child would pull something hot down on her face
multiple times and hold it there; however, Lee did not
suspect that appellant was abusing Skylar. Appellant also
told Lee on this date that Skylar had been hitting herself,
throwing herself down, and biting Glenn.
was charged with first-degree murder as defined as knowingly
causing the death of a person fourteen years of age or
younger. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-10-102(a)(3) (Supp. 2017).
The jury was instructed that
the State does not contend that Victoria A. Dycus acted alone
in the commission of the offense of murder in the first
degree. A person is criminally responsible for the conduct of
another person when he is an accomplice in the commission of
an offense. An accomplice is one who directly participates in
the commission of an offense or who with the purpose of
promoting or facilitating the commission of an offense:
solicits, advises, encourages or coerces the other person to
commit the offense; or aids, agrees to aid, or attempts to
aid the other person in ...