Heard April 22, 2015
Roy Cooper, Attorney General, by Teresa M. Postell, Assistant Attorney General, for the State-appellant.
Staples S. Hughes, Appellate Defender, by Barbara S. Blackman, Assistant Appellate Defender, for defendant-appellee.
On discretionary review pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-31 of a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C.App. ___, 759 S.E.2d 380 (2014), vacating in part and reversing in part a judgment entered on 12 June 2013 by Judge Linwood O. Foust in Superior Court, Cleveland County, and remanding for entry of a revised judgment and resentencing thereon. Heard in the Supreme Court on 22 April 2015.
In this case we must decide whether an indictment charging defendant with larceny is fatally flawed because it did not specifically state that a church, the alleged co-owner of the stolen property, is an entity capable of owning property, and whether the State presented sufficient evidence of defendant's intent to commit larceny to support his conviction for felonious breaking or entering a place of worship. Because the name of a church necessarily imports an entity capable of owning property, we hold that the indictment was sufficient on its face. Furthermore, we conclude that the State presented sufficient evidence of defendant's criminal intent to commit larceny. Therefore, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to that court for consideration of any remaining issues.
On 8 October 2013, the Cleveland County Grand Jury indicted defendant for felony breaking or entering a place of worship and felony larceny after breaking or entering. The larceny indictment specifically alleged that, on 15 August 2012, defendant stole " a music receiver, microphones and sounds system wires, the personal property of Andy Stevens and Manna Baptist Church, . . . in violation of N.C.G.S. [§ ] 14-54.1(a)." Defendant pled not guilty.
At trial, the State's evidence showed that at the conclusion of Sunday services on 19 August 2012, Pastor Andy Stevens of Manna Baptist Church discovered that some audio equipment was missing. Pastor Stevens lives on the Manna Baptist Church property. He testified that the church doors may have been inadvertently left unlocked on 15 August, following Wednesday evening services. When the church secretary arrived the next morning, she locked the doors, and they remained locked until Sunday morning. Although there was no sign of forced entry, Pastor Stevens found defendant's wallet in the baptistry changing area at the back of the church close to where some of the missing equipment previously had been located.
A detective testified that she spoke with defendant at the Cleveland County Detention Center, where he was being held on an unrelated charge. When defendant learned the detective wished to speak with him, he said, " [T]his can't possibly be good. What have I done now that I don't remember?" Defendant then admitted to being at Manna Baptist Church the night the doors were left unlocked. He said he was on " a spiritual journey" and " had done some things," but " did not remember what he had done" in the church.
At the close of the State's evidence, the trial court denied defendant's motion to dismiss the charges based on insufficient evidence. Defendant then testified on his own behalf. He stated that on the night in question, he was asked to leave the house in which he was living, so he packed a duffle bag with his clothes and started walking toward a friend's house. Along the way, he dumped the bag in a ditch because it was too heavy to carry. Defendant arrived at his friend's house around midnight. When his friend's girlfriend asked him to leave, he kept walking until he reached Manna Baptist Church. Defendant noticed that the door to the church was cracked open. He was thirsty from walking all night, so he entered the church with the intent to find water and sanctuary. Defendant stated that once inside, he prayed, slept, " tried to do a lot of soul searching," and drank a bottle of water, although he admitted he was " not really sure exactly what [he] did the whole time [he] was" in the church. He also testified that he " did not take anything away from the church" when he left at daybreak.
After leaving the church, defendant felt chest pains, so he called 9-1-1. Defendant testified that he was taking a host of medications at the time, including a psychotropic ...