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State v. Mathis

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 16, 2019


          Appealed from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of West Carroll, Louisiana Trial Court No. 2017F124 Honorable Don C. Burns, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Chad Ikerd Counsel for Appellant

          JOHN M. LANCASTER District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          AMANDA M. WILKINS Assistant District Attorney

          Before MOORE, STONE, and COX, JJ.

          COX, J.

         This criminal appeal arises from the Fifth Judicial District Court, West Carroll Parish, Louisiana. These crimes were committed in Franklin Parish. A pretrial motion to change venue was granted and the case was transferred to West Carroll Parish for trial. A unanimous jury convicted Kevin Q. Mathis of the aggravated kidnapping and attempted first degree murder of Kelli Longoria and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Mathis was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence on the aggravated kidnapping conviction; 50 years' imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence on the attempted first degree murder conviction; and 10 years' imprisonment at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence on the possession of a firearm by a convicted felon conviction. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. Mathis's motion for new trial was denied and this appeal followed. For the following reasons, we affirm Mathis's convictions and sentences.


         On July 16, 2016, Kelli Longoria stopped at the U-Pak-It/Citgo convenience store in Winnsboro, Louisiana, to get a lemonade on her way to a 7:00 a.m. meeting at her family's hardware store. Kelli was driving a dark-colored GMC SUV. Surveillance video introduced at trial shows Kelli purchase a lemonade with a blue debit card from Winnsboro Bank, exit the store, and get into her vehicle. Kelli stated a black male approached her and asked her for a ride to the hospital. Kelli agreed to give the man a ride, but he stated that he would drive. Kelli told the man that she could drive, and the man responded, "I have a gun, move over, I'm driving." Kelli testified that she crawled to the passenger side of her vehicle and the man drove them away from the convenience store.

         The surveillance video also shows a black male enter and leave the store, look around, and sit/lean on a pole outside the store. A still shot taken from the video shows a handgun-shaped bulge in the man's right pant pocket. The man is wearing a dark shirt and long, baggy khaki shorts. The same man is seen on the video approaching Kelli's driver side door, the door opens, the man moves toward the open door and disappears off the screen, and then the door closes. He is not seen again outside the vehicle.

         Kelli testified that when the two left the parking lot, she noticed that the man passed several turns that would have taken them to the hospital. During the drive, the man showed her the gun and said, "Hey, I told you I had this, here it is." Kelli testified that when he turned toward the cemetery, she knew he was not going to the hospital. Once in the cemetery, she stated that the man backed her SUV into some trees and brush and then took her debit card and phone. Kelli testified that the last thing she remembered was crouching down on the floorboard with the gun pointed at her. She described the events as follows:

[Kelli's cell phone] kept going off and he said "give me your phone." And I was like "well, I'm not answering anything. Why do you need it?" and he said "just give me your phone." And so I gave it to him because I mean I didn't want him to kill me. And so I gave him my phone and then he did the same thing, he was like "give me your money" I said "I don't carry cash on me but I have a debit card" and he said "okay, give me your debit card" and so I gave it to him and then he was like "what's the pin number?" And so I wrote it down for him and he had that on a piece of paper and my debit card.

         Kelli testified that the next thing she remembered was waking up in the rehabilitation facility in Jackson, Mississippi. She confirmed that the man who approached her at the convenience store is the same man who abducted her and shot her. Kelli was not asked to identify Mathis as her assailant in court or before trial in a photographic lineup.

         Timothy Singleton, a grave digger in Winnsboro, testified that he was in the cemetery that morning to dig a grave. Mr. Singleton stated that, for a reason he could not explain, he turned a different direction than usual while driving in the cemetery and observed a dark-colored SUV backed into the trees. The passenger door was open and he saw a body "hanging out." Mr. Singleton called his boss, Yolandes Davis, who told Mr. Singleton to call 911, which he did. Mr. Davis also testified and corroborated the presence of the vehicle and the body.

         Investigating officers testified regarding the report of a suspicious, abandoned vehicle in the Gethsemane Cemetery with an injured white female inside. Upon arrival, officers found the SUV with Kelli in the passenger side, partially hanging out of the vehicle. The lemonade Kelli purchased was unopened in the cup holder and the crime scene photographs show blood spatter throughout the vehicle. Deputy Sheriff Jeff Wright was a responding officer and testified that Kelli suffered a trauma to the forehead, but officers could not tell the cause due to the amount of blood and the fact that the blood had already started coagulating and clotting.

         Deputy Wright stated that although Kelli could not speak, she was able to hand gesture to officers that she had been shot. Kelli was ultimately transported to Jackson, Mississippi, for treatment. It was determined that Kelli suffered a gunshot to her head and doctors advised the family that she would likely not survive through the night. However, Kelli progressed and, after months of rehabilitation, relearned how to speak and feed herself.

         Trooper Scott Brown, of the Louisiana State Police, testified regarding the crime scene investigation and identified the black male seen on the surveillance video as the defendant, Kevin Mathis. Trooper Brown advised that there was no DNA evidence or fingerprint evidence from the crime scene. He explained that fingerprint powder destroys DNA so instead of fingerprinting, he opted for DNA testing, which was inconclusive. Trooper Brown pointed out that by the time Mathis was arrested, he had taken a bath and changed clothes, ensuring that there would be no DNA evidence on his person. Trooper Brown stated that the crime lab does not perform gun residue testing because it is unreliable.

         Ten days after the offense, a cell phone and case were located beside a path near the cemetery. The case had been removed and the phone destroyed. The pieces of the case were scattered near a ditch and the phone had been tossed into a culvert. Officers concluded it was Kelli's cell phone because it matched the phone Kelli was carrying in the surveillance video from the convenience store. Trooper Brown testified that because it had rained before the phone and case were found, there were no recoverable fingerprints or DNA evidence.

         Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb also testified that during the investigation, on the morning of the offense, the black male seen on the surveillance video was identified as Mathis. Sheriff Cobb made an in-court identification of Mathis as the person seen on the surveillance video. Sheriff Cobb described Mathis's behavior at the convenience store as "panning," or looking for an opportunity. He testified that the surveillance video showed Mathis enter and leave the store. When Kelli walked past him, Mathis put his hand in his pocket where the handgun-shaped object was seen. He stated that the video shows Mathis followed Kelli to her vehicle. After Kelli entered her vehicle and shut the door, Mathis approached the vehicle and "at that point[, ] Mr. Mathis enters her vehicle." Sheriff Cobb stated that two witnesses, Torquill Boley and Lakeithrick McMillan, came forward that morning with information possibly linking Mathis to the crime. Sheriff Cobb testified that, based on the foregoing information, Mathis became a person of interest and a BOLO was issued for his arrest.

         Officer Will Pearce, of the Winnsboro Police Department, testified that he was riding in a patrol car on the morning of the shooting and kidnapping when he observed Mathis. Officer Pearce knew Mathis before this offense. He exited the patrol car and Mathis fled. Officer Pearce caught Mathis, ordered him to the ground, and took him into custody.

         Torquill Boley testified that he has known Mathis for "some years" because they live on the same street. Boley stated that he was approached by Mathis early in the morning of July 16, 2016, and the two rode together to Boley's house. Boley testified that Mathis asked him if he had any nine millimeter bullets. Boley told Mathis he did not have any bullets. He stated that Mathis then "flagged" down LaKeithrick McMillan and was gone. Boley identified Mathis in court as the man who asked him for the bullets.

         Lakeithrick McMillan testified that he saw Mathis at Boley's house early that morning. He later saw Mathis on Gum Street and gave him a ride. Mathis asked McMillan to take him to the bank and told him that he had his Uncle Bobby's debit card and needed to use it. McMillan testified that Mathis told him that McMillan would have to pull up to the bank and Mathis would reach out the window. Mathis told him he would have to hide his face to use the card. On cross-examination, McMillan stated that Mathis did not seem nervous and he did not see a gun or any blood on Mathis. McMillan ...

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