Frank Don Causey was convicted of malice murder and sentenced
to life in prison without parole in relation to the fatal
strangulation and drowning of Lydia Ivanditti. We affirm his
Causey alleges the evidence was insufficient to convict him
because there was no evidence placing him at Ivanditti's
home at the time of her death. In a light most favorable to
upholding the jury's verdict of guilty, the evidence at
trial was as follows. On December 1, 2016, Ivanditti left her
mother's house around 8:30 p.m. When Ivanditti's
mother and daughter had not heard from her by the afternoon
of December 2, Ivanditti's mother went to her house to
check on her. The mother discovered Ivanditti deceased in her
bathtub and called police. Ivanditti had been deceased for at
least four to six hours prior to discovery because her body
was in full rigor mortis. Ivanditti had bruising on her neck
and on her forehead. The medical examiner testified that
Ivanditti died from manual strangulation and drowning.
the bathtub with Ivanditti's body was an unplugged foot
massager with some blood on it. Next to the bathtub was a broken
glass pipe with traces of marijuana in it, a broken cell
phone, and a cell phone case. Authorities identified the
blood on the battery of the broken cell phone and the cell
phone screen protector as belonging to Causey. Some
blood-spotted bath towels recovered from the scene also
tested positive for Causey's DNA. The police believed
items in the bathroom had been arranged to make the scene
look like an accident, in particular the placement of the
unplugged foot massager on top of Ivanditti's foot and
the placement of the components of the broken cell phone.
had once lived with Ivanditti, who was known to allow various
people to live in a downstairs bedroom inside her Putnam
County house. A forensic review of Ivanditti's phone
records and Causey's phone records revealed that Causey,
using a method to block the identity of his phone number,
contacted Ivanditti several times on the night she was
killed. Police confirmed that Causey sometimes drove his
partner's blue Dodge Durango. The Durango was seen at
Ivanditti's house around 8 p.m. on December 1. That
vehicle was also recorded by a nearby hardware store's
video surveillance camera. The recording showed the vehicle
leaving from the direction of Ivanditti's house around
midnight on December 2. Ivanditti's neighbor testified
that, at about 2 a.m. on December 2, she saw a person, whom
she believed to be male, walk out of Ivanditti's house
and over to a maroon SUV that was parked on Ivanditti's
property. The evidence at trial showed that Causey owned a
maroon SUV, which he had left at Ivanditti's house when
he had previously lived there.
his arrest, Causey made inculpatory statements to police,
admitting that he saw Ivanditti on the night of her death,
became angry with her, "broke out in [a] rage," and
grabbed her by the neck with his hands for 15 to 20 seconds.
Causey said after he let go of her neck, Ivanditti fell into
the tub and was unresponsive. In addition to these
inculpatory statements, the State introduced evidence
pursuant to OCGA § 24-4-404 (b), showing that Causey had
fought with past girlfriends, and, during those altercations,
he choked the women and either disabled their cell phones or
took their cell phones away from them.
evidence described above was sufficient for a reasonable
trier of fact to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that
Causey was guilty of the crime for which he was convicted.
See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S.
307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).
Causey alleges the trial court erred when it admitted
custodial statements he made after he allegedly invoked his
right to remain silent.
Police must scrupulously honor a suspect's right to
remain silent if the person clearly and unambiguously states
that he wants to end a custodial interrogation. Berghuis
v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370, 381-382 (130 S.Ct. 2250, 176
L.Ed.2d 1098) (2010); Perez v. State, 283 Ga. 196,
197 (657 S.E.2d 846) (2008). "But if a defendant
equivocates in asserting the right, a police officer is under
no obligation to clarify or to stop questioning."
Ridley v. State, 290 Ga. 798, 802 (4) 725 S.E.2d
223) (2012) (citation omitted).
Brown v. State, 304 Ga. 435 (2) (b) (819 S.E.2d 14)
(2018). The record in this case does not support Causey's
assertion that he clearly and unambiguously invoked his right
to remain silent.
submitted to two custodial interviews. The first custodial
interview took place on December 20, 2016, the day of
Causey's arrest, at the Eatonton Police Department (EPD)
with GBI Special Agent David Peebles, who was the lead
investigator on the case, EPD Investigator Lenwood Pickens,
and, towards the end of the interview, GBI Special Agent in
Charge Joe Wooten. The second custodial interview, which was
partially video-recorded and fully audio-recorded,
took place on December 21 at the Putnam County Sheriff's
office with GBI Special Agents Michael Maybin and Peebles.
holding a Jackson-Denno hearing and reviewing the
recordings of the custodial interviews, the trial court
concluded that Causey did not unequivocally invoke his right
to remain silent during the first custodial interview. Our
review of the record supports this conclusion. Immediately
prior to commencing the first custodial interview,
authorities read Causey the Mirandawarnings, and he
agreed to talk without an attorney present. Throughout the
first custodial interview, Causey denied having anything to
do with Ivanditti's murder. He also questioned
investigators about what evidence connected him to the crime.
Just under an hour into the interview, after being admonished
several times that he could not go home because he was under
arrest, but also reminded that he was not required to talk to
police, Causey told agents to put the handcuffs on and take
him to jail. At that point, Agent Peebles and Investigator
Pickens stepped out of the room. Agent Wooten came in to tell
Causey that they were getting ready to book him and take him
to jail. Agent Wooten advised Causey that the authorities
would only talk to him if he re-initiated the interview.
Causey asked for Agent Wooten's business card and
requested a cigarette. Agent Wooten advised Causey that he
could smoke his cigarette and take five minutes to decide if
he was finished talking to police. Rather than taking five
minutes to think, Causey asked Agent Wooten to sit down. Once
Agent Wooten sat down, Causey started talking again and
continued to ask more questions about the evidence against
him. Agent Peebles re-entered the room as Causey continued
speaking. At the end of the interview, Causey told Agent
Peebles he would talk to him "tomorrow at noon."
Maybin testified that, after the first custodial interview
had ended, he was on guard in the EPD booking area while
Causey was being booked. Agent Maybin testified Causey asked
to speak to him, and, during their brief exchange, Causey
told Agent Maybin he wanted to speak to the agent alone the
next day at noon. In addition, Causey gave Agent Maybin a
handwritten note memorializing this request. As Causey was
being escorted from EPD to a transport vehicle that would
take him to the county jail, he said, in front of the state
trooper escorting him, "I did it, I did it."
next day, per Causey's request, Agents Maybin and Peebles
interviewed Causey at the Putnam County Sheriff's office.
Before this second custodial interview commenced, the
officers again reminded Causey of his rights pursuant to
Miranda, and Causey agreed to talk. During the
second custodial ...