in the Court of Appeals 21 August 2019.
by defendant from judgments entered 22 February 2018 by Judge
Phyllis M. Gorham in Wayne County Superior Court. No. 16 CRS
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General M. Shawn Maier, for the State.
Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Amanda S. Hitchcock for defendant-appellant.
trial court lacked jurisdiction to try Stephenson for larceny
of motor vehicle parts because the indictment failed to
allege the cost of repairing a single motor vehicle.
Therefore, we vacate the judgment and we need not address
appellant's other arguments as to larceny of motor
vehicle parts. The trial court did not err in admitting
Detective Pierce's testimony, nor did it err in
instructing the jury. The trial court also did not err in
admitting a document to support the restitution order.
Furthermore, the trial court did not err in what it ordered
Stephenson to pay in the restitution order, but did have a
clerical error which should be corrected on remand.
Therefore, we affirm in part, dismiss in part, vacate in
part, and remand.
Factual and Procedural History
Spring of 2016, employees at Green's Auto Salvage
("Green's") noticed that fuel injectors and
other parts were disappearing from working engines and that
engines were being damaged. Green's is a family owned
business started by Debbie Green Lassiter's ("Mrs.
Lassiter") father. Mrs. Lassiter works at Green's,
along with her husband Jeffrey Lin Lassiter ("Mr.
Lassiter") and other employees. Mrs. Lassiter estimated
that the fuel injectors had been removed from five to ten
engines, possibly more. Each engine had six fuel injectors,
and Green's sold the individual injectors for $175 each.
Lassiter testified that there was a hole cut in the fence and
tools appeared that did not belong to any of the salvage yard
employees. Green's installed five motion-activated
cameras. One camera's footage showed a man entering the
salvage yard through the hole in the fence on two occasions.
Jeffrey Lynn Stephenson ("Stephenson") admitted
that it was him. On both occasions, Stephenson was seen with
a backpack and a bucket. Green's installed another camera
in an attempt to get the license plate number from a vehicle
that had been parking near the salvage yard. However, the
camera went missing and there was no further surveillance.
Green's provided the footage to the Wayne County
Sheriff's Office and on 18 April 2016 reported to the
office that approximately 60 fuel injectors had been seized
and six engines had been damaged. After several months, the
Wayne County Sheriff's Office received information from
the Wilson County Sheriff's Office about a crime
involving stolen fuel injectors.
Wayne County Sheriff's Office contacted Stephenson, who
admitted to being present at the salvage yard on the two
nights when he was captured on surveillance. Stephenson
admitted to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office that he
stole twenty to thirty Caterpillar-brand fuel injectors in
total from the salvage yard, eight to ten of which he stole
on 12 April 2016. Stephenson sold the injectors to an
individual in Virginia. To prevent his arrest, Stephenson
contacted Mrs. Lassiter and offered between $1, 500.00 and
$2, 000.00 if she would not press charges, and she declined.
July 2017, a Wayne County grand jury indicted Stephenson for
larceny of motor vehicle parts, felony possession of stolen
goods, injury to personal property, and first-degree
trespass. On 20 February 2018, Stephenson pled guilty to the
misdemeanors of injury to personal property and first-degree
jury trial on the two felonies, the jury found Stephenson
guilty of larceny of motor vehicle parts and felony
possession of stolen goods. The trial court imposed a
sentence of six to seventeen months imprisonment for each of
the two felonies, 45 days imprisonment for the injury to
personal property charge, and thirty days imprisonment for
the first-degree trespass charge. These sentences were
suspended for thirty-six months of supervised probation.
Stephenson was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount
of $26, 315. Stephenson filed notice of appeal on 22 January
Larceny of Motor Vehicle Parts
Standard of Review
an indictment is alleged to be invalid on its face, thereby
depriving the trial court of its jurisdiction, a challenge to
that indictment may be made at any time, even if it was not
contested in the trial court." State v.
Wallace, 351 N.C. 481, 503, 528 S.E.2d 326, 341,
cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1018, 148 L.Ed.2d 498 (2000).
"A valid bill of indictment is essential to the
jurisdiction of the Superior Court to try an accused for a
felony and have the jury determine his guilt or innocence,
'and to give authority to the court to render a valid
judgment.'" State v. Marshall, 188 N.C.App.
744, 748, 656 S.E.2d 709, 712 (2008). "Whether a trial
court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law,
reviewed de novo on appeal." McKoy v. McKoy,
202 N.C.App. 509, 511, 689 S.E.2d 590, 592 (2010).
first argument, Stephenson contends that the trial court
lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to try him for larceny of
motor vehicle parts because the indictment failed to allege
the cost of repairing any motor vehicle required by statute.
was indicted for larceny of motor vehicle parts under N.C.