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State v. Eschenbach

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 15, 2020

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
DUSTIN CHARLES ESCHENBACH Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 355, 800 Honorable Katherine C. Dorroh, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney Counsel for Appellee

          NANCY F. BERGER-SCHNEIDER JASON W. WALTMAN RICHARD S. FEINBERG Assistant District Attorneys

          Before PITMAN, GARRETT, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          PITMAN, J.

         Defendant Dustin Charles Eschenbach was found guilty as charged of aggravated battery and attempted second degree murder. He was sentenced to 8 years at hard labor for the aggravated battery conviction and 25 years at hard labor, without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence for the attempted second degree murder conviction. He now challenges the constitutionality of his sentences on appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm his convictions and sentences.

         FACTS

         On February 16, 2018, Kimberly Michelle Wright and her boyfriend, Luther Allen Meshell, were stabbed multiple times by Defendant, who is Wright's adult son. Defendant was arrested and charged by bill of information with committing aggravated battery against Meshell, in violation of La. R.S. 14:34, and attempted second degree murder against Wright, in violation of La. R.S. 14:30.1 and 14:27. He pled not guilty. On March 11, 2019, a 12-person jury trial commenced with the following testimony and evidence.

         Wright and Meshell testified that they lived together in Caddo Parish with Wright's mother and Defendant. Around 5:00 p.m. on February 16, 2018, as they were leaving the home to have dinner, Defendant said to Wright, "Tonight's your night." Wright found his comment to be threatening, but dismissed it as Defendant "talking crazy." When asked if she thought something was going to happen later, she answered, "Not nothing like what happened." She testified that she and her son argued a lot and he had anger issues, but they had never had any physical confrontations.

         When Wright and Meshell returned home around 7:00 p.m., all the interior lights were on, the window blinds were raised and Defendant was standing in the kitchen. No words were exchanged as Meshell proceeded to the bedroom and Wright turned around to lock the front door. As she turned around, Defendant stabbed her in the neck with a steak knife. She screamed for help as he continued stabbing her in the head, upper arm and chest. Meshell returned and fought to get Defendant off of her. At some point in the struggle, Wright's finger was nearly severed by the steak knife and the knife handle was broken off. Once Meshell was able to free Wright from her son's attack, she ran to the bathroom, where she called 911 and then applied towels to the spray of arterial blood coming from her neck. The recording of Wright's 911 call was played for the jury.

         Meshell and Defendant continued to struggle. Defendant stabbed at Meshell's head, upper shoulder and arm, and Meshell struck blows to Defendant's face and body. Only when Meshell threatened to gouge out his eye did Defendant stop and run out of the house. Meshell called 911 and grabbed a flashlight to help responders find the home in the dark.

         Meshell testified that he, Wright and Defendant had been living together without any major conflicts or physical fights for one to two years; and while Defendant and Wright argued over "typical stuff," he had never been concerned that Defendant would be violent. He stated he had no idea what caused Defendant's behavior.

         Wright testified that although Defendant appeared angry all the time and displayed hate for her, they had never had any physical altercations, and she did not have any expectation that Defendant would attack her. She stated that Defendant did not say anything before or during his attack on her.

         Meshell was treated at the scene for stab wounds to his arms and shoulder and cuts to his head. Wright's wounds were more serious and included an almost two-inch deep cut to her neck, a badly cut jugular vein, a collapsed lung and an almost severed finger.

         Captain Adam Hall, a paramedic with Caddo Parish Fire District Number Four, testified that upon responding to the 911 call, he found Wright barely conscious and bleeding uncontrollably from her neck. He stated that the amount of blood at the scene was horrific and that in 22 years, he had never seen so much blood. He estimated that Wright had lost almost two liters of blood when he arrived. He testified that the bright, red blood spurting everywhere indicated that Wright had a very ...


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