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State v. Sprecker

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake

August 21, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
DONALD SPRECKER, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2015 CR 000797.

          Charles E. Coulson, Lake County Prosecutor, and Anna C. Kelley, Assistant Prosecutor, OH 44077 (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Charles R. Grieshammer, Lake County Public Defender, and Vanessa R. Clapp, Assistant Public Defender, (For Defendant-Appellant).



         {¶1} Appellant, Donald Sprecker, Jr., appeals his conviction, following a jury trial, in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas of burglary. The only issue raised on appeal is whether his conviction was against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶2} On December 10, 2015, appellant was indicted for burglary, a felony of the second degree. He pled not guilty and the case proceeded to jury trial.

         {¶3} In August 2015, Raffaela "Nina" Dellerocili, a 79-year old woman, was living alone in Apartment 12 of a 12-unit apartment complex in Painesville. Nina's trusted friend, Lilly Falin, also lived in the complex. On August 6, 2015, Nina had a mild stroke. She was treated in a hospital for two days and then discharged to a nursing home for one month. While Nina was in the nursing home, Ms. Falin came to her apartment twice daily, once at 6:00 a.m. and once at 9:00 p.m., to feed her cats.

         {¶4} In the morning on Sunday, August 16, 2015, Ms. Falin entered Nina's apartment as usual. Upon entering the bedroom, she noticed the wire mesh outside the bedroom window was bent down and the window was open. She also saw the bathroom was a mess and the screen was out of the window.

         {¶5} Ms. Falin went to the nursing home and told Nina her apartment had been broken into. Nina called the police, reported the burglary, and made arrangements to meet them at her apartment that morning. Painesville Police Officer William Sickles met Nina and Ms. Falin at Nina's apartment. Officer Sickles said he did not see any signs of forced entry at the entrance door. He asked Nina to walk him through her apartment and point out anything that was out of order.

         {¶6} Nina directed Officer Sickles to the bathroom, which was at the rear of the apartment. He noticed the shower curtain had fallen down and was leaning against the bathtub. Officer Sickles saw mud on the rug in front of the tub. He saw the two side-by-side window panes in the bathroom window were haphazardly set up in the window frame. A sheet of plastic that had been attached outside the window was torn and partially inside the room.

         {¶7} In the bedroom, which was next to the bathroom and also at the rear of the apartment, Nina pointed out the blanket on her bed was flipped up. Officer Sickles said it was apparent someone had been looking under the bed.

         {¶8} Nina noted the drawers in her dresser were open and their contents disturbed. She said there was a lot of change missing, totaling about $2.00, which she kept in a baggie in her dresser drawer. When Nina moved back into her apartment on September 2, 2015, she found her full bottle of 22 Oxycontin pills was also missing and reported this to Officer Sickles. Based on her prior contacts with appellant, Nina told Officer Sickles she believed he committed this break-in.

         {¶9} After going through the bedroom, Officer Sickles went outside and walked around to the back of Nina's apartment where he saw two windows, the bathroom window to the left and the bedroom window to the right. Officer Sickles saw the bathroom window panes were not in their track and were inside-out. The screen to that window was on the ground below it. In that area, the officer saw fresh footprints in the dirt. He also saw puncture holes in the ground, which were consistent with an apparatus used in the burglary. Officers at the scene made a cast of a footprint, but, due to a problem with the casting material, the cast fell apart and was useless for identification purposes.

         {¶10} Turning his attention to the bedroom window, Officer Sickles noticed that wire mesh and, over that, a sheet of plastic had been installed outside this window. The plastic was pulled off and the mesh covering the window was pulled down, but still in place. Just outside the bedroom window, Officer Sickles saw more footprints and holes in the ground similar to those he saw beneath the bathroom window. Based on this evidence, Officer Sickles believed the bathroom window was the point of entry.

         {¶11} Anngela Brown testified she moved into Apartment 2 of the complex one year earlier in September 2014. At that time she met appellant, who lived next door in Apartment 1. Apartments 1 and 2 are across the parking lot from Apartment 12, Nina's apartment. Anngela and appellant began a romantic relationship in December 2014, and in the same month, Anngela moved in with him in his apartment.

         {¶12} Anngela said she had a brain tumor as a child and that, following surgery to remove the tumor, she could not go to "normal school" and had an IEP (individual education plan) in high school. She said her doctors have told her that, due to her brain surgery, "her brain cannot accomplish the right way;" that she is a "slow learner;" and that she has anxiety, depression, and a "severe stress disorder." She said that because of her disability, she is easily frightened. She also has memory issues, which sometimes cause her to remember events out of order and to forget details unless she concentrates on them. She receives SSI benefits due to her disability. Anngela is openly religious and goes to church every week with her grandmother.

         {¶13} Anngela testified that on Saturday, August 15, 2015, at around 8:30 p.m., appellant went to Apartment 2 to drink and do drugs with friends who lived there. She said she went to Apartment 2 at about 10:30 p.m. to ask him to come home. A female occupant told Anngela he would come home in 20 minutes, but he did not. Anngela returned to Apartment 2 about an ...

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