Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas Case No. CR-15-601904-A
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Britta M. Barthol
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor Maxwell Martin Assistant County Prosecutor
BEFORE: Kilbane, P.J., Celebrezze, J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
EILEEN KILBANE, PRESIDING JUDGE .
Defendant-appellant, Christopher Trussell
("Trussell"), appeals from his jury convictions for
rape, kidnapping, and domestic violence. For the reasons set
forth below, we affirm.
In January 2016, Trussell was charged in an eight-count
indictment arising out of allegations by his girlfriend,
T.R., that Trussell kidnapped her and sexually and physically
assaulted her. The indictment charged Trussell with two
counts of rape, one count of kidnapping, one count of
domestic violence, two counts of endangering children, one
count of disrupting public service, and one count of having
weapons while under disability. Each of the two counts of
rape carried a notice of prior conviction specification, a
repeat violent offender specification, as well as one- and
three-year firearm specifications. The kidnapping count
included the same specifications, and additionally included a
sexual motivation specification.
In March 2017, this matter proceeded to a jury trial, at
which the following evidence was adduced.
T.R. testified she was in an intimate relationship with
Trussell in 2015. He moved in with her and her two young sons
in July 2015. She explained that she met Trussell when she
was in high school and has known him for about 20 years.
In December 2015, Trussell was driving T.R. home from work
when the two got into an argument over T.R.'s
relationship with a woman whom she calls "Niecy, "
and Niecy's son, Jay. T.R. explained she considers Niecy
as a mother figure, and Jay is like a brother to her.
T.R. testified that after she and Trussell arrived home,
Trussell was "in a bad mood" and "had an
attitude." He cancelled their plans to go to a Cavaliers
basketball game, and they both went to bed for the night. She
explained that she woke up at 3:00 a.m. and went to sleep on
the couch in another room. Approximately a half hour later,
Trussell also woke up, and came to find her. Trussell brought
T.R. a blanket and then went outside. T.R. testified she
heard him start her car up.
Around 4 a.m., Trussell returned inside and began to complain
to T.R. that her sons had not yet followed his instruction to
clean up the yard. He proceeded to wake up T.R.'s ten and
eleven-year-old sons and ordered them outside to clean the
yard. T.R. testified her thumb was injured when Trussell
threw her against a wall when she tried to prevent Trussell
from lunging at her eldest son.
While the boys were outside cleaning the yard, Jay sent T.R.
a message on Facebook. Trussell noticed T.R. was using the
Facebook application on her cell phone and demanded to know
with whom she was messaging. Trussell accused T.R. of
cheating on him with Jay, took her phone, and began to send
messages to Jay.
T.R. explained that after Trussell threw her against the
wall, she told him she was ending their relationship, and she
asked him to leave the home. Trussell then threatened to kill
Niecy and Jay as well as any witnesses to their murders.
Trussell told T.R. to get dressed so they could leave the
house. He told T.R. that he wanted her to take him to Niecy
and Jay's house. T.R. refused, explaining to Trussell
that she had to go to work in a few hours. T.R. testified she
had tried to leave the house, but Trussell blocked the door
and would not allow her to leave. Trussell destroyed her cell
phone by smashing it on the floor until it fell apart.
A few hours later, T.R. ultimately complied with
Trussell's order to get dressed and leave the house with
him since he claimed to have a gun in a backpack he had
brought in the house from the garage. T.R. explained that
Trussell allowed her to contact her employer to call off of
work and also allowed her to leave her father's and older
daughter's telephone numbers for her sons. Before leaving
with Trussell, T.R. told her sons to go to a neighbor's
house and call her father or daughter.
Trussell forced T.R. into her car with him and again demanded
to know where Niecy and Jay lived. T.R. gave him vague
directions. At one point while in the car, Trussell hit T.R.
in the face. T.R. tried to jump out of the moving car, but
Trussell yanked her back in and threatened to shut her in the
trunk. Trussell momentarily stopped the car in the parking
lot of an RTA bus and train station. She attempted to get out
of the car a second time, but Trussell yanked her back in.
Before Trussell drove the car out of the parking lot, he
forced T.R. to perform oral sex on him by yanking her by the
neck, pulling her head down toward his lap. Trussell then
When Trussell and T.R. arrived home, T.R.'s sons were no
longer there. Trussell would not let T.R. leave the house and
again forced her to perform oral sex on him. T.R. testified
that she pleaded with Trussell "please don't make me
do this, I don't want to do this." He threatened to
use the gun he claimed to have in the backpack to force T.R.
to remove her clothes. Trussell proceeded to vaginally rape
her. He ejaculated on her face, chest, and stomach.
T.R. explained that she was unable to call the police because
Trussell had destroyed her only phone - her cell phone -
earlier that morning. Eventually, T.R.'s father arrived
at the home and Trussell went outside to talk to him. After
talking with T.R.'s father, Trussell left the house. T.R.
showed her father her injuries and the police arrived.
After the incident, Trussell sent T.R. a letter apologizing
for what happened. He told her he loved her, but also
attempted to dissuade her from testifying against him.
The responding Cleveland police officer and the nurse who
performed a rape kit on T.R. testified as to T.R.'s
demeanor and injuries. A forensic DNA analyst testified to
the results of the rape kit. The forensic analyst concluded
to a "reasonable degree of scientific certainty"
that Trussell's DNA matched the seminal fluid recovered
from T.R.'s face, abdomen, and chest. T.R.'s adult
daughter also testified.
At the conclusion of the state's case, the defense made a
Crim.R. 29 motion for judgment of acquittal. The trial court
denied this motion and Trussell's renewed motion made
after the defense rested without calling any witnesses.
The jury found Trussell guilty of rape as charged in Count 1,
kidnapping as charged in Count 3, and domestic violence as
charged in Count 4. The jury found him not guilty of the gun
specifications as charged in Counts 1 ...