in the Court of Appeals 10 April 2019.
by defendant from judgment entered 21 February 2018 by Judge
Richard Kent Harrell in New Hanover County, No. 17 CRS 51701
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Sherri Horner Lawrence, for the State.
Holladay for defendant-appellant.
the evidence, when taken in the light most favorable to the
State, was sufficient to show defendant attempted to engage
in indecent liberties with a minor child, the trial court did
not err in denying defendant's motion to dismiss.
February 2018, defendant Edward Hamilton Southerland, an
elderly man, was tried by a jury and convicted in New Hanover
County Superior Court before the Honorable R. Kent Harrell,
Judge presiding, on the charge of taking indecent liberties
with a child, eleven-year-old A.G.
State presented evidence that A.G. and her grandmother went
to University Arms Apartments to visit a relative. Defendant,
who lived in the apartment across from A.G.'s relative,
frequently interacted with A.G. and her grandmother, when
they came to visit the relative.
February 2017, defendant gave A.G.'s grandmother a sealed
envelope and directed her to deliver it to A.G. A.G.'s
name was written on the front of the envelope. In the letter,
defendant stated to A.G.:
Have you ever been offered something and not followed up on
"it," only to wonder what would have happened
"if" I had? That's how I have felt about the
three balloons you gave me for my birthday, last year.
When you moved, every day I think of you and those
balloons. I miss you so much, yet the only thing I have are
my memories of you. That makes me feel like the lonely old
man that I am. I don't want to feel that way and the only
thing that makes me feel young and alive is to wonder what
"it" would be like to have sex with you. I'm
within sight of being seventy years old and in good health.
The only thing I need is a very pretty girl who knows me and
likes me. Therefore, the only girl I could possibly like is
wrote at the bottom of the letter to A.G., "[p]lease do
me the honor of having sex with me and help me to feel young
again. Love, Mr. Ed[.]"
next day, A.G.'s grandmother read the letter and
immediately called the police. Detective Justin Ovaska of the
Wilmington Police Department read the letter and went to
defendant's apartment where defendant admitted that he
wrote the letter to A.G.
close of the State's evidence, defendant moved to dismiss
arguing that the State did not present substantial evidence
that he was actually or constructively in the presence of
A.G. Defendant's motion was denied. Defendant took the
stand and testified that he "was so tired and lonely
from trying to get help [for his post-traumatic stress
disorder] that [he] just sat down and wrote [A.G.] a
letter." After defendant rested his case, he renewed his
motion to dismiss which the trial court denied.
was found guilty of taking indecent liberties with a child.
The trial court sentenced defendant in accordance with the
jury verdict, and defendant was ordered to register as a sex
offender for thirty ...