in the Court of Appeals 22 August 2017.
by Defendant from judgment entered 4 August 2016 by Judge
Douglas B. Sasser in Columbus County Superior Court No. 10
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Richard L. Harrison, for the State.
Massengale & Ozer, by Marilyn G. Ozer, for
the evidence relevant to a defendant's motion to suppress
is undisputed, a trial court denying the motion need not make
findings of fact, but it must explain its rationale. Failure
to do so precludes meaningful appellate review and requires
Faulk ("Defendant") appeals from a judgment
following a jury verdict finding her guilty of first degree
murder on the basis of malice, premeditation and
deliberation. Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court
committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on the
defense of duress; (2) the trial court abused its discretion
by allowing into evidence photographs depicting the
victim's injuries and the crime scene; and (3) the trial
court erred by denying her motions to suppress other
evidence. After careful review, we remand to the trial court
to make the necessary conclusions of law regarding
Defendant's motions to suppress.
and Procedural History
evidence at trial tended to show the following:
On 6 November 2010, Defendant and Kenneth Gore
("Gore") were staying with a friend in the Berry
Court Apartments in Chadbourn, North Carolina. On occasion,
and twice on 6 November 2010, Defendant would knock on Ms.
Bonnie Fowler's door to use her phone. Ms. Fowler, a
77-year-old woman, lived alone in the apartment next door to
where Defendant and Gore were staying, and would oblige
Defendant's request to make calls.
point in the late afternoon or early evening of 6 November
2010, Ms. Fowler was attacked in her kitchen. She suffered
repeated blows to the head and multiple stab wounds, and died
as a result of her injuries. Security footage from the
apartment complex showed Ms. Fowler's car leaving the
parking lot that same evening at approximately 8:13 p.m.
next day, 7 November 2010, around 9:00 a.m., Ms. Fowler's
daughter arrived at her mother's apartment to pick her
mother up for church. When Ms. Fowler did not answer her
door, her daughter retrieved an extra key and let herself
into Ms. Fowler's apartment. Upon entering, Ms.
Fowler's daughter found the apartment ransacked and her
mother's body in the kitchen; she immediately called
arrived and secured the crime scene. Detectives found several
bloody footprints in the kitchen. Police also found a hammer
in one of the closets, which later tested positive for the
presence of Ms. Fowler's blood. The medical examiner
documented numerous injuries, which included several
defensive wounds and stab wounds. The medical examiner
concluded that the cause of death was from multiple stab
wounds to Ms. Fowler's chest.
November 2010, the North Carolina State Bureau of
Investigation (the "SBI") contacted the Maryland
State Police regarding Defendant's and Gore's
outstanding arrest warrants in connection with Ms.
Fowler's death. The SBI provided Maryland police with
copies of the arrest warrants and a description of the
homicide and apparent theft of Ms. Fowler's car. Maryland
police contacted Defendant's sister, who was living in
Baltimore. Defendant's sister took police to a row house
in Baltimore where Defendant and Gore were staying.
police converged on the row house, and as officers knocked on
the front door, Gore fled out the back door where he was
immediately apprehended by police. Gore told police that
Defendant was upstairs, and two officers entered the row
house, performed a protective sweep, and arrested Defendant.
The officers secured the house while a search warrant was
obtained. While the officers were waiting for the warrant,
the owner of the house arrived.
the warrant was issued, the owner of the row house led police
to items identified as belonging to Defendant and Gore. The
police recovered various items from the basement, including
the following: clothing, a steak knife, a pair of Jordan
tennis shoes, a pair of Adidas tennis shoes, a cell phone,
and a pill bottle with Ms. Fowler's name on it. Crime lab
results from the items revealed that the two pairs of shoes
were consistent with the shoes that made the bloody
shoeprints in Ms. Fowler's apartment. The Adidas tennis
shoes also tested positive for Ms. Fowler's DNA.
November 2010, Defendant provided police with a voluntary
statement concerning the events leading up to her arrest.
During the interview, Defendant told police that she had used
Ms. Fowler's phone twice on 6 November 2010, witnessed
Gore stab Ms. Fowler while Ms. Fowler was bleeding on the
kitchen floor, and drove Ms. Fowler's car to Baltimore
with Gore. Defendant explained that she had not attempted to
flee from Gore because she was afraid of how he would react.
was indicted on 10 February 2011 for one count of first
degree murder and on 6 October 2011 for one count of robbery
with a dangerous weapon. A hearing was held on 25 July 2016
to address Defendant's various pre-trial motions,
including three motions to ...