in the Supreme Court on 8 April 2019.
Appeal pursuant to N.C. G.S. Â§ 7A-30(2) from the decision of
a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, 817 S.E.2d 6');">817 S.E.2d 6 ( N.C.
Ct. App. 2018), vacating defendant's convictions on
appeal from judgments entered on 24 January 2017 by Judge J.
Thomas Davis in Superior Court, McDowell County.
H. Stein, Attorney General, by Deborah M. Greene, Assistant
Attorney General, and Lauren Lewis Ikpe, Assistant Attorney
General, for the State-appellant.
C. Rodriguez for defendant-appellee.
appeal by the State of North Carolina, which comes to this
Court on the basis of a dissenting opinion which was issued
in the disposition of this case by the North Carolina Court
of Appeals, requires consideration of the doctrine of recent
possession and its utilization here to prove the charges of
breaking and entering and the charge of larceny. In the
appellate court below, the majority and the dissent disagreed
on the issue of whether the State presented sufficient
evidence to establish that defendant in this case actually
possessed the allegedly stolen property pursuant to the cited
legal doctrine in order to survive a motion to dismiss. In
light of our conclusion that the evidence presented at trial
concerning defendant's possession of goods was sufficient
to support defendant's conviction under the doctrine of
recent possession, we reverse the Court of Appeals'
decision and remand the case for consideration of
defendant's arguments not addressed therein.
Background and Procedural History
charges in this matter arose from at least two apparent
break-ins and thefts of items from an unoccupied house
located at 30 Woody Street in Marion. Daniel Patrick Sheline,
Sr. had inherited the three-bedroom house and a trailer on
five acres of land upon his father's death in February
2014. Sheline lived in Black Mountain and neither he nor
anyone else resided at the 30 Woody Street address after his
father's death. On 20 March 2014, Sheline spent time at
30 Woody Street, sorting through the personal property that
had belonged to his father and to Sheline's deceased
brother. Sheline had paid particular attention to the items
in the house on that date, forming a "sort of . . .
inventory in [his] mind" of the items inside the house,
including those stored in the basement. When Sheline left the
house, he engaged the lock on the knob of the front door, but
did not employ the deadbolt lock. Sheline secured the
basement door from the inside of the house by inserting a
screwdriver through a padlock such that the door could not be
opened from the outside. The only other door entering the
house, which was located on the side of the building, had
been nailed shut. Sheline had not given anyone permission to
enter 30 Woody Street or to remove any items from the
April 2014, Sheline returned to 30 Woody Street, accompanied
by his wife on this occasion. He discovered that someone had
tampered with the front door, because its deadbolt lock was
now engaged. Sheline further found that the basement door was
ajar, the padlock that had secured the basement door was
missing, and an adjacent window had been pried open. A number
of items were missing from the house, including a monitor
heater, copper tubing, an aluminum ladder, a lawnmower, and a
cuckoo clock, as well as electrical wiring and various
plumbing fixtures. Sheline's wife reported the theft to
the McDowell County Sheriff's Office ("MCSO").
Lieutenant Detective Andy Manis of the MCSO initiated an
investigation. On 2 April 2014, Manis's captain received
a tip that some of the property which had been removed from
30 Woody Street could be found at a house located at 24 Ridge
Street in Marion, about a quarter of a mile from 30 Woody
Street. In following up on the tip, Manis went to 24 Ridge
Street and discovered outside of the house a monitor heater,
some copper tubing, an aluminum ladder, a lawnmower, pipes,
and wiring. Sheline subsequently identified the items as
those which were taken from 30 Woody Street. When Manis
knocked on the door of 24 Ridge Street, a woman who
identified herself as Stephanie Rice answered and reported
that two people in a white Chevrolet pickup truck with an
extended cab had unloaded the items earlier that day.
Following this phase of the investigation, warrants were
issued for defendant Mollie Elizabeth B. McDaniel and Michael
Nichols in connection with the 2 April break-in and theft at
30 Woody Street.
April 2014, MCSO Detective Jason Grindstaff received a report
that an unauthorized person had again entered the house at 30
Woody Street and was seen departing that location in a white
pickup truck that turned onto Ridge Street. Grindstaff drove
to 24 Ridge Street and saw defendant sitting in the
driver's seat of a white pickup truck which was parked in
the driveway of the house located across the street from the
24 Ridge Street address. Defendant gave Grindstaff permission
to search the truck, and Grindstaff discovered an Atari
gaming system, glassware, china, and an antique clock radio
in the bed of the vehicle. Grindstaff then arrested
defendant, who was subsequently charged with one count of
felonious breaking and entering and one count of felonious
larceny based upon events that allegedly occurred on or about
20 March 2014, and one count of felonious breaking and
entering and one count of felonious larceny based upon events
that allegedly occurred on or about 4 April 2014.
charges arising from the events of 20 March and 4 April 2014
were joined for trial. Sheline, Manis, and Grindstaff
testified at trial to the facts recounted above. In addition,
Grindstaff testified that defendant had admitted to him that
she had taken the property which was found in the white
pickup truck at the time of her arrest from a house on Woody
Street, but defendant claimed that she had permission to
remove the property. Grindstaff further testified that
defendant told Grindstaff that Michael Nichols had asked her
to help remove items from the house at 30 Woody Street after
an unidentified neighbor had given Nichols permission to
enter the premises.
close of the State's evidence, defendant entered a
general motion to dismiss all of the charges which arose from
the alleged 20 March 2014 and 4 April 2014 occurrences. While
defendant did not offer any legal argument in support of her
dismissal motion, defendant emphasized her position on the
dismissal of the 20 March charges. After a brief discussion,
the trial court agreed with defendant and allowed the motion
to dismiss the 20 March charges, reasoning as follows:
I don't see any connection between being across the
street except in the proximity of it.
As to the file number 14 CRS 50512, which is the indictment
from March 20, 2014, which based on the evidence is the first
breaking and entering and larceny, the Court is going to
allow your motion. As to the other one on April 4, 2014,
which is file 14 CRS 50509, the Court is going to deny your
motion there. You basically got an admission that she went to
the house and got that stuff out of that house. You have
problems with that one.
recess for lunch, the trial court expressed confusion about
its previous decision regarding defendant's motion to
THE COURT: Let's go back to this motion for directed
verdict. Let me go back and revisit that a little bit. The
way I see the evidence is [that] we have got evidence of one
breaking and entering, then we have this defendant with the
property at a particular time with an admission that she went
in there and took some of that property. I'm not sure-I
may have dismissed the wrong one because basically what it
comes down to is you have one breaking and entering. The one
I dismissed was alleged on April 4.
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I thought you dismissed the other one.
THE COURT: I did dismiss the other one, but what I am telling
you is I may have gotten them backwards. I should have
dismissed the April 4 one and left the March 20 one in place
based on this evidence. I want to make sure I have time to
correct that since nothing has happened at this point in
I want to revisit that, but I want to see-I understand your
continuing evidence of two breaking and enterings. The way I
see it is the only testimony as to opening the window, the
door, all the situations are from one incidence. We don't
have any testimony there was any sort of entry that second
time, and that admission that she makes was not peculiar to
The evidence that you brought out about somebody reported
seeing the car, I think all that does is goes to the state of
mind of this officer. I think it's only offered for that
purpose. If it's offered for any other purpose I think it
would violate the hearsay rule. I think that's the only
reason it comes in; therefore, it cannot be used as
substantive evidence of any particular crime.
As a result thereof, I may have dismissed-by dismissing the
April 4 allegation, I am basically-I may have committed error
to the State because that's the later one, and it would
be hard for you to relate the original breaking and entering
that was testified to today to that indictment because it was
the wrong date.
I may have [dis]missed the wrong one. I want to hear from
you, at least from that analysis, what your position is. I
can correct it right now without any prejudice to the
defendant. I was thinking it over ...