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State v. Baldridge

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 16, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
RANDY KEITH BALDRIDGE, II A/K/A RANDY BALDRIDGE

          APPEAL FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA, NO. 85046 HONORABLE JOHN D. TRAHAN, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Annette Roach Louisiana Appellate Project Counsel for Defendant Appellant: Randy Keith Baldridge, II

          Keith A. Stutes District Attorney Counsel for Appellee: State of Louisiana

          Jack E. Nickel Assistant District Attorney Counsel for Appellee: State of Louisiana

          Jeffrey Landry Louisiana Attorney General Colin Clark Chief of Criminal Appellate Section J. Taylor Gray Assistant Attorney General Louisiana Department of Justice Counsel for Other Appellee: Attorney General of the State of Louisiana

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE

         Defendant was convicted of indecent behavior with a juvenile. He was sentenced to twenty-five years at hard labor with at least two years to be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Defendant appeals his conviction and sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's conviction, vacate his sentence, and remand for resentencing, with instructions.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Defendant, Randy Keith Baldridge, II, was charged with the first degree rape of N.M., the eight-year-old daughter of his then girlfriend.[1] A jury found him guilty of the responsive verdict of indecent behavior with a juvenile. Defendant's motion for new trial was denied, and he was sentenced to twenty-five years at hard labor with at least two years to be served without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. The trial court denied Defendant's motion to reconsider sentence and this appeal followed.

         ERRORS PATENT

         After review for errors patent on the face of the record, [2] we have discovered two such errors. The first, which involves the trial court's imposition of an indeterminate sentence, was raised by appellate counsel and will be discussed as an assigned error. The second concerns the trial court's failure to advise Defendant of the prescriptive period for filing an application for post-conviction relief. Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 930.8 provides that a defendant has two years after the conviction and sentence become final to seek post-conviction relief. The trial court is instructed to inform Defendant of the foregoing provision at resentencing.

         DISCUSSION

         Eight witnesses testified at the three-day trial of this matter. Their testimony is summarized below.

         Allison Roy

         The first witness called by the State was Allison Roy, a forensic interviewer at Hearts of Hope Children's Advocacy Center (CAC). She testified that she interviewed the victim on November 19, 2015. Detective Dennis Fruge of the Acadia Parish Sheriff's Office (APSO) and Rachel Cart with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) supervised the interview from an observation room. During Ms. Roy's testimony, a videotape of the CAC interview was played for the jury and admitted into evidence as State's Exhibit 1. The substance of that interview follows.

         After introducing herself to the victim and asking the victim to tell her a little bit about herself, Ms. Roy asked the victim to tell her about what led to her being there that day. Ms. Roy told the victim that she should tell the truth about everything they discussed. When Ms. Roy initially asked the victim about what had happened to her, the victim answered, "I don't really know[.] I don't remember anything." She said, "I forgot about it, because I've been having a good time with my daddy. I don't have to worry about it no more [sic]." The victim later told Ms. Roy that she was raped, which she understood to be something very bad for which one could go to jail to "pay the consequences." She stated that Mr. Randy, her mother's live-in boyfriend, had raped her more than once over the course of one year. When asked to give her definition of what "rape" meant, the victim explained that Defendant put his "private" in her "private," which term she described as "where you use the restroom." She said that when Defendant raped her, he did it so hard her private would sting and she would be unable to urinate for three days. Defendant told the victim not to tell anyone, threatening to punish her if she did.

         The victim stated that the first time Defendant raped her was in her room when they were staying at her grandmother's rent house. Her brothers were asleep in another room. Defendant asked her if she wanted to stay up late, and he told her to get in his bed and play with his phone. Instead, she went to her room, and Defendant followed her. Defendant shoved a pillow over her face until she could not breathe. She passed out, but she knew Defendant put his body part in hers. She was on her back and Defendant was on his knees, in the middle of her legs. His private was hard, and he put it in her private and in her butt. Another time, when she was sleeping at her grandmother's house, Defendant woke her up, grabbed her hand, and made her touch his private. While that was happening, her mother came home from work. Defendant yanked the victim's arm toward him and slung it down, almost breaking it. He then hurriedly put his clothes on and went to watch television with her mom.

         The victim said last time she was raped was on the previous Wednesday at her Uncle Pie's house. She had gone with Defendant to his mother's house earlier in the day. Defendant was drunk, acting "crazy," and running in the house. Her brothers were in their room and her uncle was in his room. She was sleeping in Defendant's room. He had drunk more than six beers. Defendant yanked off her pants and underwear, took some cream from a pinkish-red container in her mother's dresser, rubbed it on his private, and put his private in her private and in her butt. When the victim's mother came home, Defendant put on his pants and put the victim's clothes on her. The victim said numerous similar incidents happened when they lived at Uncle Pie's house. She described in detail two occasions where Defendant tried to "force" his private in her mouth, but was unable to do so because she put a pillow over her face.

         On the videotape, the victim relayed several occasions when she told her mother about what Defendant had done to her, but her mother did not believe her. The victim's mother told her she had asked Defendant if the allegations were true, and he denied everything. Thereafter, her mother "kept bugging her," asking if she was sure Defendant had done what she accused him of. Her mother and Defendant punished her when she said anything about it, and Defendant called her a liar. The victim was mad at her mother because she knew what was happening and did nothing.

         The victim said "Ms. Gretchen," a friend of her father, had recently asked her if anyone had been hurting her. She told Ms. Gretchen about what Defendant had been doing to her, and when Ms. Gretchen told her father, he got "very, very mad." Her father took her to the hospital where she spoke to a policewoman and had photographs taken of her private and her butt before going to be interviewed at the CAC.

         Toward the end of the interview, Ms. Roy asked the victim how she was feeling. The victim said she felt good and hoped she could get the memories of what Defendant had done to her totally out of her mind. When Ms. Roy asked her how she felt about Defendant, the victim replied, "I don't know[, ]" and tried to change the subject. She said that Defendant had left belt marks on her and her brothers. The victim said she wanted to live with her father because he was nice and she "didn't get whipped" there. She also said that they went out to eat more often when she lived with her father. When asked what she wanted to happen, the victim responded, "Everything to go back to normal; live with daddy and have a happy life[.]"

         Detective Dennis Fruge

         Detective Fruge investigated the allegations against Defendant when he worked for the APSO. He received a call on November 7, 2015, to contact a nurse at a Lafayette hospital about the possible molestation of an eight-year-old. Detective Fruge went to the hospital where he learned the last incident allegedly took place on November 4, 2015. He later observed the victim's interview at the CAC. Based on the information he gathered, he arrested Defendant.

         Detective Fruge stated that he did not go to the crime scene to collect bedding nor did he gather any clothing from the victim or Defendant because of the time lapse between the date of the last alleged occurrence and when he received the call. No other suspects emerged. Thus, he did not interview anyone about the matter, nor did he get a statement or a DNA sample from Defendant.

         Dr. Rebecca Doise

         Dr. Rebecca Doise, the medical director of the children's emergency room at Women and Children's Hospital, was accepted as an expert pediatric emergency room physician. She stated that the victim went to the emergency room on November 7, 2015. Dr. Doise came into the room during the victim's physical examination by the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE).[3] Dr. Doise did not believe a rape kit was done "because of the time of presentation and the last known contact with her alleged perpetrator." Dr. Doise created a report of the victim's examination. Her primary finding was "sexual assault by bodily force."

         Dr. Doise said the victim had "an abnormal rectal exam. She had no anal wink[, ] and fissuring or scarring at -- When you look at a rectum in a clock position, she had fissuring at 10, 2, 5, and 7 o'clock." The absence of an anal wink indicated "that some object that was larger than the rectum was placed in the rectum and caused damage to the rectum and pain." Dr. Doise could not identify a timeline as to when that might have occurred, however, the scarring indicated that it occurred more than forty-eight hours prior to the examination. She stated that the only other possible cause of lack of an anal wink was a spinal injury or a congenital abnormality. She added that chronic constipation could cause one anal fissure, but not multiple ones.

         The victim's "vaginal exam was also abnormal. She had no visible hymenial ring and she had tearing or scarring of the posterior fourchette, which is the lower portion of the vaginal opening." Dr. Doise found both of those characteristics "significant." The lack of a hymenial ring indicated "there was penetration of the vagina at some point." Dr. Doise stated that scarring of the posterior fourchette "indicates that there was penetration by something large." She believed that the victim's injuries were consistent with the history provided. The victim also had "some general vulva redness with some white cheesy material around the clitoris." Dr. Doise did not consider that significant, as it was common in young girls and could be attributed to hygiene issues. She noted that vulvovaginitis could not cause the victim's vaginal fissures.

         N.M.

         The victim was eleven years old and in the sixth grade at the time of trial. She, her mother, and her two brothers had lived with Defendant for "[o]ne or two years" and had moved around a lot. They lived in Defendant's trailer, at the victim's grandmother's rent house, and at her mother's brother Joshua's, whom she referred to as her Uncle Pie, house. At the time of trial, the victim lived with her mother, stepfather, three brothers, and Pie. She stated that Defendant had touched her at her grandmother's rent house and at Pie's house. She did not remember how many times it happened, but it was more than once. At Pie's house, Defendant touched her private with his private. Every time he touched her, his private went inside her private, and it hurt for "[l]ike three days." On one occasion, Defendant rubbed "some pinkish, reddish cream found in [the victim's] momma's room in her drawer" on his private, and then he put his private in her. She stated that no one else ever touched her inappropriately and she had never accused anyone else of touching her.

         On cross-examination, the victim said that when she lived in Defendant's trailer, his son Dylan also lived with them. She did not recall telling her mother and Defendant that Dylan had touched her. She also did not recall telling Dylan she did not want Defendant to live with her or that she wanted her father to live with her. Finally, she did not recall telling her mother that her father or her grandfather had touched her.

         The State rested its case after the victim testified.

         Kylie Meche Matthews

         The victim's mother, Kylie Matthews, was called to testify by Defendant. She explained that she raised the victim to inform her if anyone did anything inappropriate with her. When she and Defendant dated and lived together, Ms. Matthews never saw him rape or do anything sexual with her daughter. Ms. Matthews stated that during those two years, she, the victim, and her other two children lived with Defendant and his son, Dylan, at Defendant's trailer, her grandmother's trailer, her brother's house, and with Defendant's friend, Heather Romero. Ms. Matthews's friend, Summer, often came to visit, and neither she, nor anyone else, ever told her that they saw Defendant do anything inappropriate with the victim nor did they say the victim had told them any such thing.

         Ms. Matthews worked at night and Defendant was in charge of her two sons and the victim and when she was not home. She stated that she was not with her children as much as she had previously been, and they had begun "to act out." She worked at Love's Travel Stop until December 28, 2016. She did not recall if she worked on November 4, 2015, or during the week before the victim went to the police with her allegations. She had a baby in May of 2016, and she worked throughout her pregnancy.

         Ms. Matthews recalled that when she and Defendant were together, the victim spent "[m]aybe two [weekends] the whole two years" with her father, Neville Matthews. She stated that Mr. Matthews never said anything about the victim potentially being abused, nor did he tell her that the victim made any allegations against Defendant. According to Ms. Matthews, the victim's father never paid child support, but he filed for temporary custody of the victim after the allegations were made.

         The victim told Ms. Matthews that she did not like Defendant, and she complained about his strict discipline. Ms. Matthews said that Defendant used his belt to discipline her children, and that she and Defendant had argued about it. She testified that the victim never mentioned Defendant touching her, but she did say that Defendant "was playing with himself while looking at [the victim] with no panties on[, ]" and that Defendant let her play on her phone while he was in bed with her, and he was touching himself. A DCFS report showed that Ms. Matthews had discussed the victim's accusations against Defendant with the victim's father, and they agreed she was lying. The report further showed that Ms. Matthews claimed the victim was always lying to get attention. Ms. Matthews testified that she now realizes that she "made a big mistake" in not believing her daughter.

         Ms. Matthews stated that she did most of the laundry when she and Defendant were dating and that she never noticed any bloody sheets, towels, or underwear belonging to the victim. The victim visited her pediatrician while Ms. Matthews was dating Defendant, and there was never a mention of any signs of sexual abuse.

         Randy Baldridge, Sr.

         Defendant's father, Randy Baldridge, Sr. (Mr. Baldridge), testified that he never saw Defendant do anything inappropriate with the victim. Ms. Matthews had told him that the victim "was saying that her daddy was touching her in her private spots[, ]" and that the victim had previously "accused her grandpa of doing the same thing." Mr. Baldridge said Ms. Matthews did not know what to do so he encouraged her to tell someone. Not long afterward, Mr. Baldridge found himself "taking [Ms. Matthews] and [Defendant] to a social worker because [the victim] had accused [Defendant] of the same thing." Mr. Baldridge did not think Defendant "has that type of tendencies." He stated that he was aware that the victim had been seen at the hospital, but he did not know what was found.

         Dylan Baldridge

         Defendant's son, Dylan Baldridge, was thirteen and had lived with his mother for about three years when he testified at trial. Prior to that time, he had always lived with Defendant, and he had seen his mother only once. Dylan said that he and his father "were very close." Dylan stated that the victim and Ms. Matthews lived with he and his dad for about two years. They lived at the victim's uncle's house, in Maurice, and in the victim's grandmother's house.

         Dylan said Defendant and the victim "were close somewhat[, ]" but she did not always have positive feelings toward Defendant, and she did not like him disciplining her. The victim told Dylan that Defendant "hated her and that she wished that her dad was there." In the years Dylan lived with the victim, he never saw his dad do anything inappropriate with her. He explained that he, the victim, and her two brothers slept in the same room at the house in Maurice and at the victim's uncle's house. They slept in separate rooms at the victim's grandmother's house, "but her brothers would normally go in [the victim's] room." Dylan did not recall seeing Defendant alone with the victim or them sleeping in the same room.

         Randy Baldridge, II

         Defendant was thirty-eight years old at the time of these allegations. He testified that he never raped the victim, forced her to perform oral sex, did anything sexual with her, or touched himself with her in the room. Defendant was shocked when he first heard the allegations against him in November 2015. He "couldn't believe it" and felt like "somebody was playing a joke on [him], a bad joke."

         He had lived in Abbeville, Louisiana, for most of his life. In addition to Dylan, Defendant had an adult son, Garrett Hebert, and another child who had died since Defendant had been in jail. He and Ms. Matthews dated for several years. During that time, Ms. Matthews and her three kids lived with Defendant and his son, Dylan. When they all lived together in Defendant's trailer, "the kids slept all in one room." They left the trailer because Ms. Matthews got drunk one night and the neighbors complained to his landlord.

         Defendant stated that the group moved to the home of one of his friends, where they all slept in the same room. Next, they lived at Ms. Matthews's grandmother's house. After that, they lived at Ms. Matthews's brother's[4] four-bedroom house. Defendant said "[a]ll the kids slept in one room[.] They all liked to be together, sleep together." Defendant was arrested while they lived there.

         During the time they lived at that house, Ms. Matthews began working nights at Love's Truck Stop, and Defendant was alone with their children. He kept the car, and he and the children picked up Ms. Matthews from work "[p]retty much every night." Defendant stated that the victim did not like him or Dylan, and that she told him "multiple times that she just wished I wasn't around and her dad would be there because she wanted me out of the picture, out of her mom's life."

         The victim wanted to live with her father because Defendant disciplined them. The children had no discipline with their father. Defendant first testified he only whipped the victim once with his hand, but he then said he had corrected her with his hand or another object "[a] couple of times." He said he "was tough on them, but [he] wasn't abusive to them[.]"

         The victim never brought any of her allegations to Defendant personally. Defendant had a sexual relationship with Ms. Matthews, and the victim had seen them being intimate. They also kept pornography at the house. The victim once found a pornographic video in he and Ms. Matthews's room and the children were punished from their games for a few days after he found them watching it. Defendant and Ms. Matthews also kept lubrication in their bedroom drawer, which the victim knew about from "digging in the room."

         Defendant testified the victim had made allegations against her grandfather, her father, and Dylan. One day, the victim and Dylan were playing on a trampoline, and the victim "ran up and said [Dylan] had messed with her." However, Dylan said he "body-slammed her on the trampoline" but did not otherwise touch her. After a while, the victim's story changed to agree with what Dylan had described to him.

         According to Defendant, Ms. Matthews never told him that the victim had accused him of molesting her. Defendant stated that he had "left [Ms. Matthews] a couple of times over the situation where she wouldn't correct her kids behind sexual behavior [sic], and [Defendant] wanted her to seek counseling to get [the victim] help." When asked about Dr. Doise's testimony that the victim had vaginal and anal scarring, Defendant responded that those findings were "grinching [sic] to the stomach to hear[.]"

         Defendant claimed that the victim lied in her CAC interview. He said Ms. Matthews did not go to work on the day the victim accused him of last raping her. Defendant explained that he was upset during the trial because he was ...


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