from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Caddo, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 333, 559, Honorable
Ramona L. Emanuel, Judge.
RANSDELL KEENE Counsel for Appellant.
E. STEWART, SR., District Attorney, REBECCA ARMAND EDWARDS
JOHN AARON CRAWFORD WILLIAM C. GASKINS Assistant District
Attorneys, Counsel for Appellee.
BROWN, GARRETT, and COX, JJ.
defendant, Christopher M. Bell, was charged with aggravated
burglary and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Following a jury trial, he was convicted of the responsive
verdict of attempted aggravated burglary and as charged on
the firearm offense. He was adjudicated a second felony
offender and sentenced as such on the attempted aggravated
burglary charge to 15 years at hard labor without benefit of
probation or suspension of sentence. On the firearm offense,
he was sentenced to ten years at hard labor without benefit
of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The trial
court ordered that the sentences be served concurrently with
credit for time served. The defendant appeals. For the
reasons stated below, we affirm the defendant's
convictions and sentences.
night of July 7, 2015, Benny and Rebecca York were sleeping
in recliners in the den of their home on Lowry Road in rural
Caddo Parish. Mrs. York was awakened by a sound she assumed
was caused by her cat. When she called the cat's name,
she heard the sound of a person's voice. Realizing there
was an intruder in their home, she immediately woke up her
husband. Mr. York saw a large man leaving through the front
door. He grabbed a high intensity flashlight and his unloaded
shotgun, and placed three shotgun shells in his pocket.
Although he and his wife initially went out the back door of
the residence together, he sent her back inside to call
York went around the corner of the home, he observed car
lights in his neighbor's yard. He then came across a man
crouched behind a pine tree in his yard. The man was wearing
a hoodie and holding a roll of duct tape. The man told Mr.
York to not "mess" with him and to go back in his
house. Mr. York responded by instructing the man to put his
head in the grass until the sheriff arrived. At trial, Mr.
York identified this man as the defendant.
point, a "huge" man came up behind Mr. York and hit him
in the back. This man put a gun against Mr. York's neck
and demanded his shotgun, while threatening to shoot him in
the head. After taking Mr. York's shotgun, the two men
fled over a fence toward a dark-colored automobile with an
open trunk, which was parked in the neighbor's yard. Mr.
York saw his shotgun thrown by one of the men but was unsure
of where it landed. Initially, he thought it was in the
York ran back to the house, where his wife was still talking
to the 911 operator. In a state of great excitement, he gave
descriptions of the men and their vehicle, which were then
dispatched to law enforcement officers. 
James Moore of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office
responded to the call about a burglary in progress with two
men and a gun and headed toward the crime scene. At
approximately 11:30 p.m., he was about five miles from the
York residence, driving west on Blanchard Latex Road, when he
was passed by a vehicle matching the broadcast description of
the burglars' car and occupied by two men. Based upon his
reasonable suspicion that this was the suspect vehicle, Sgt.
Moore turned around and initiated a stop. The defendant, who
was driving, was ordered out of the vehicle and patted down
by Sgt. Moore. Sgt. Moore checked his driver's license;
the vehicle registration and insurance proof were retrieved
from the car for examination. The car was registered to the
defendant and a relative. Sgt. Moore walked the defendant to
the front of his patrol car. A reserve deputy who arrived on
scene got the passenger, Donte Demunguia, out of the car and
patted him down. He kept Demunguia at the back of the
defendant's car. Unbeknownst to Sgt. Moore, who was
focusing his attention on the defendant, Demunguia gave the
deputy permission to open the trunk. As soon as it was
opened, the defendant said he did not want his car searched.
Sgt. Moore directed the deputy to secure the trunk, which he
meantime, Mr. York was brought to the scene of the stop.
According to his testimony, only 30 to 45 minutes had passed
since the incident at his home. He positively identified
first the car and then the two men. Following the
identification, the officers determined that they had
probable cause to arrest the men, and a decision was made to
tow the car to the impound lot. According to Sgt. Moore's
testimony, an inventory search of the vehicle was conducted
before the car was moved. Two shotguns were found in the
trunk, which was cluttered with numerous items, including
shoes, boots, clothing and various bottles. The shotguns -
Mr. York's unloaded Smith & Wesson shotgun and a
loaded Remington Model 870 20-gauge shotgun owned by
Demunguia - were removed by Corp. John McCain, a crime scene
investigator. Mr. York, who was still at the scene of the
stop, identified his stolen shotgun.
a search warrant was obtained by Detective Purgerson, and a
more thorough search of the impounded car was conducted. A
plastic bag was found under the spare tire; it contained a 9
mm Ruger pistol, two black gloves, a long-sleeve black shirt,
a black hood, and a chisel. Crime lab testing of these items
revealed the defendant's DNA on the gloves. While
Demunguia was excluded as the source of DNA on any of the
items, the defendant could not be excluded as to the hood and
the shirt. Law enforcement officers learned that the pistol
had been reported stolen in Texas.
defendant and Demunguia were charged with aggravated
burglary. The defendant, who had a 2012 conviction for
attempted armed robbery, was also charged with possession of
a firearm by a convicted felon. In January 2016, Demunguia
pled guilty to simple burglary and agreed to testify against
defendant's attorney filed a motion in limine to exclude
any reference to the pistol recovered from the
defendant's trunk as having been stolen. The motion was
argued at a hearing on March 1, 2016; the court deferred
ruling until March 7, 2016, when trial was set to commence.
At that time, the court granted the motion.
counsel also filed a motion to suppress and, alternatively,
motion for a free and voluntary hearing, and/or a motion in
limine as to the defendant's statement to the police. The
state agreed it would not use the statement, except for
rebuttal purposes, and defense counsel deemed that motion
first day of trial, the defendant filed a pro se
pleading entitled "Motion of Ineffective Counsel, "
in which he claimed that his appointed attorney threatened
him "with intimidation" to take a plea deal and
failed to file pretrial motions "that were essential to
defendant charges, as well as victim/witness(s)
testimony." He requested that his attorney be relieved
and that the court assign "adequate, "
"competent" counsel. The trial court allowed the
defendant to argue the matter in open court; it then denied
the motion. Additionally, the state declined the
defendant's offer to plead guilty to attempted possession
of a firearm by a convicted felon and serve four years at
hard labor in exchange for the state dropping the other
charge and not filing a habitual offender bill.
lunch, the defendant refused to return to court or to wear a
leg restraint device under his civilian clothing, which would
"lock up" if he attempted to run. Despite the
urging of the deputies and his own attorney, the defendant
insisted that he wanted to stay downstairs in the jail. Court
was continued, over the state's objection, until the
following morning on the motion of defense
counsel. The defendant was present when the trial
resumed the next day. He again complained of the trial
court's denial of his pro se motion. He now
contended that his counsel should have filed a motion to
suppress an illegal search of his car. The trial court
reiterated its prior denial of the motion. The defendant
then expressed interest in a five to six year plea agreement;
however, the state rejected that offer.
addition to the victims, crime lab personnel and various law
enforcement officers, the state presented the testimony of
the defendant's accomplice, Demunguia. Although his
version of the events differed somewhat from Mr. York's
testimony, his testimony placed the defendant at the scene.
He testified that the burglary was the idea of the defendant,
who was his girlfriend's cousin and a recent
acquaintance. He admitted that, while he brought his own
shotgun that night, the defendant was the one wearing the ski
mask and gloves. According to his testimony, the defendant
was about to open the door to the Yorks' residence when
Mr. York came around the side of the house with a flashlight
and a shotgun. He and the defendant tried to hide behind
trees. He testified that Mr. York told him to not move and
that the defendant then pushed or tackled Mr. York. He also
stated that, after they fled from the Yorks' yard, the
defendant put Mr. York's shotgun in the back seat of the
car, and that he placed his shotgun there also. However, he
testified that, after they drove away, the defendant stopped
the car so Demunguia could put the shotguns in the trunk.
According to his testimony, they were pulled over by the
police five to six minutes after they resumed driving.
his testimony about the items recovered from the
defendant's car, Corp. McCain inadvertently made a
reference to the pistol being reported stolen in Texas. The
defendant's motion for mistrial was denied, and the trial
court admonished the jury to disregard the remark.
defendant was convicted of the responsive verdict of
attempted aggravated burglary and as charged on the firearm
charge. Defense counsel filed a motion for post-verdict