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McKinney v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

February 27, 2017


          NAHMIAS, Justice.

         Appellant Roy McKinney was convicted of the malice murder of his wife, Shaquilla Weatherspoon, and cruelty to children in the third degree for beating Weatherspoon in the presence of their six-year-old daughter. His only contention on appeal is that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his murder conviction. We affirm.[1]

         1. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence presented at trial showed the following. On Sunday, June 2, 2002, at 1:45 a.m., Appellant called 911 and said that his wife had been missing since the night of Friday, May 31. He gave the police the following account of the hours before she supposedly went missing.[2] Around 5:30 p.m. on May 31, Weatherspoon, who had recently finished her day job, picked Appellant up from his job in the car that she had rented for them after their family car was in an accident. When they arrived at their apartment, Weatherspoon got ready to leave for her night job at Grady Hospital. Meanwhile, Appellant walked to the corner store to buy a lottery ticket. When he returned home a little after 6:00 p.m., Weatherspoon had already left, locking him out of the apartment. He repeatedly called her, but she said she could not leave work to let him in. Appellant went to visit a friend in the apartment complex. They stayed outside, listening to music and drinking beer; Appellant drank four or five beers.

         According to Appellant, Weatherspoon returned from Grady around 12:30 a.m., allowing him to get back into the apartment. She told him that she was going to a party at a co-worker's home and that she would not return that night because she would sleep at her mother's home, which was where their daughter was spending the night. Appellant argued with her, accusing her of going to meet a man. She then changed clothes while Appellant watched television. Weatherspoon left the apartment around 1:30 a.m. As she left, Appellant offered to help her with the bags she was carrying; she refused help, so Appellant told her to have a good time and did not go outside with her. That was the last time he saw or spoke to her. Appellant characterized his and Weatherspoon's relationship as "bizarre." He admitted that there had been affairs on both sides and that they had split up several times, but he said that they stayed together for the sake of their daughter.

         As the police investigated Weatherspoon's disappearance, evidence emerged that contradicted Appellant's story in several key aspects. The friend with whom Appellant had been drinking, Antonio Brown, confirmed that they sat outside together from about 7:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m., although Brown said Appellant drank six or seven beers. During that time, however, Appellant did not say anything to Brown about being locked out of his apartment. Furthermore, Brown's and Appellant's stories about what happened after they parted ways differed. Brown said that he saw Appellant again between 1:00 and 1:30 a.m. standing outside by the apartment mailboxes. The next day, Appellant told Brown that he had been outside at that time because he was locked out of his apartment, even though Appellant told the police that Weatherspoon had returned and let him into the apartment by that time.

         Another neighbor, Antwon Fallin, told the police that he saw Appellant and Weatherspoon pull into the apartment's parking lot in their rental car around 1:00 a.m. Appellant was driving and Weatherspoon was slumped over in the passenger seat not moving. Although Appellant nearly hit Fallin, neither Appellant nor Weatherspoon said anything to him. Fallin found this strange because both usually spoke to him whenever they saw him. Fallin watched the car for the next five or ten minutes. It did not move from the place where it stopped in the parking lot, and no one got in or out.

         One of Weatherspoon's friends and co-workers from Grady confirmed that she had invited Weatherspoon to a party that night. Weatherspoon said she would get to the party around 1:00 a.m., but she never arrived. Weatherspoon's mother said that Appellant called her around 1:30 or 2:00 a.m., asking if Weatherspoon was there and claiming that he was worried about her, even though based on the story Appellant gave the police, Weatherspoon was fine when she left for the party around 1:30 a.m.

         Phone records supported Appellant's claim that he called Weatherspoon repeatedly while she was working at Grady; in fact, he called her cell phone 51 times between 7:14 p.m. and just after midnight. The records undermined Appellant's claim that he was locked out of the apartment around 6:00 p.m., however, because a call was made at 7:13 p.m. from the landline inside Appellant and Weatherspoon's apartment to her cell phone.

         Weatherspoon's friends and family corroborated Appellant's statement that Weatherspoon had affairs, mentioning three men specifically. These witnesses, however, painted a much darker picture of Appellant's relationship with Weatherspoon: it was not simply "bizarre"; it was obsessive and abusive. Three of Weatherspoon's close friends who worked with her at Grady said that Appellant was controlling and verbally abusive toward Weatherspoon. For example, he had hidden tape recorders in the apartment to monitor Weatherspoon, and he frequently checked her phone to discover if she was talking to any other men. He threatened to kill Weatherspoon if she ever left and told her that "if he couldn't have her, nobody would."

         Weatherspoon's aunt and mother echoed what her friends said about Appellant's controlling and verbally abusive behavior, and added that Appellant's abuse of Weatherspoon was also physical. According to her aunt, Weatherspoon said that Appellant slapped her and would grab her and throw her up against a wall. The aunt also once saw a handprint on Weatherspoon's face after Appellant had slapped her. Weatherspoon told her aunt that Appellant had said he could kill her without anyone ever knowing, and Weatherspoon also said: "If anything ever happens to me, Auntie, Roy killed me." According to her mother, Weatherspoon said that Appellant would "grab her and sling her around, " that he grabbed her around her neck and arms, and that he slapped her face. The mother also saw evidence of this physical abuse, including bruises and scratches on Weatherspoon's neck, a handprint from a slap on her face, and a bruise on her arm. Weatherspoon's mother said that Weatherspoon and Appellant's daughter had called her twice to come over because Appellant was beating Weatherspoon. Appellant was arrested for simple battery of

         Weatherspoon in 1999. Their daughter also said that her parents fought a lot. She described two specific incidents of physical abuse that she witnessed, once when her father hit her mother's face with a closed hand and once when he got on top of Weatherspoon and hit her.

         Weatherspoon's friends and relatives also said that Weatherspoon was unhappy in the relationship, had left a few times before but returned for the sake of their daughter, and planned to leave again. In December 2001, she pawned her wedding ring for $15, and in February 2002, she bought furniture on layaway to furnish her own apartment. An expert on domestic violence testified for the State about the cycle of violence and opined that the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is when they try to leave the relationship, because the abuser fears losing control. Other than the testimony about Appellant's abuse of Weatherspoon, there was no testimony that she had any physical or mental health problems.

         On June 6, 2002, six days after she was last seen, Weatherspoon's body was discovered by a land surveyor in an area of woods hidden from the street near Greenbriar Mall, an area of Fulton County with which Appellant was familiar. The body was in a state of moderate to advanced decomposition. Because of the level of decomposition and because there were no injuries to the victim's bones, the medical examiner was unable to determine a specific cause of death. The only identifiable injury was a broken artificial fingernail. Because of the high concentration of insects on the victim's head, neck, and face, the medical examiner hypothesized that the victim suffered an injury to her head and neck, such as an asphyxial or sharp force injury. He ruled that the victim's manner of death was homicidal violence. The medical examiner concluded that the victim had been dead between three and seven days.

         The items found on and around the victim's body indicated that she had not been sexually assaulted or robbed. Although her body was too decomposed to check for physical signs of sexual assault, her clothes were still on her and not torn. And although her Louis Vuitton purse apparently had been dumped out near her body and her wallet was empty, the purse and her credit cards were left near her body, and there had been no activity in her bank account. Several other items were also found nearby, ...

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