Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Fairfield
Criminal appeal from the Fairfield Municipal Court, Case No.
Plaintiff-Appellee TAMAS TABOR Assistant Prosecutor
Defendant-Appellant THOMAS EWING
JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.
Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.
Appellant Evan M. Stengel ["Stengel"] appeals his
conviction and sentence after a negotiated plea of no contest
in the Fairfield County Municipal Court.
and Procedural History
On November 4, 2016, Thomas Bolden, an employee working at
Tiki Bowling Lanes, reported a motor vehicle accident to law
enforcement. The accident had occurred outside the bowling
alley approximately fifteen minutes prior to Bolden's
Officer Eric Spiegel from the Lancaster Police Department
arrived and observed a fire hydrant broken off at the base, a
damaged street sign pole, and tire tracks leading away from
the scene. Officer Spiegel discovered debris from a vehicle
located around the damaged hydrant and around the entrance to
a nearby apartment complex. Officer Spiegel collected several
pieces of debris, including plastic parts of a vehicle's
headlights, side mirrors, and bumper. Thomas Bolden had
informed the 9-1-1 operator that the person who had knocked
on the door of the bowling alley to report the accident had
advised that the suspect vehicle's last known direction
of travel was towards the nearby apartment complex.
Both of the officers were equipped with body cameras;
however, Officer Spiegel's camera malfunctioned. The
events were recorded in real time on Officer Howell's
camera. State's Exhibit A.
Officer Spiegel and Officer Jared Howell located a vehicle
with heavy front-end damage, a broken headlight, a broken
mirror, and a broken bumper, parked outside the apartment
complex. Law enforcement matched the broken edges on some of
the parts found at the scene of the accident, with the
missing parts on the damaged vehicle in the parking lot. The
officers indicated that the vehicle was still warm to the
touch, despite the cold temperature that evening. Officer
Spiegel opined that the vehicle must have been driven within
the preceding hour to maintain that level of warmth in
relation to the air temperature. Law enforcement then ran the
license plate on the damaged vehicle and it returned to
Stengel whose listed address was 1526 Courtship Drive, one of
the apartments in front of the parked vehicle. Given the
heavy damage to the vehicle, law enforcement was concerned
about the driver's well-being and attempted to contact
Stengel at his nearby address.
The officers went to the apartment knocked and announced
their presence for approximately ten minutes. There were two
entrances to the apartment where Stengel resided; a front
door and a rear sliding glass door. Officer Spiegel
approached the front door while Officer Howell took up a
position at the rear of the apartment to make sure that no
one escaped from the back door.
While knocking, the officers heard the sound of a firearm
being loaded coming from the open window of an upstairs
bedroom. Per their training, the officers drew their
firearms, held them at "low ready, " i.e. not
pointed at any person, but out, and ready to be brought up if
necessary. Officer Spiegel was able to make verbal and visual
contact with a female through an upstairs window and
identified himself as a police officer. In response to
Officer Spiegel's request, the female came downstairs and
opened the front door. An adult male accompanied her.
The female identified herself as Chrisha Stengel,
Stengel's sister, and the male, was Ms. Stengel's
fiancé Christopher Meyer. Both individuals came to the
front door and spoke with officers. At some point during the
discussion, the officers holstered their weapons.
Christopher explained to Spiegel that he had loaded his rifle
because he thought someone was trying to break into the
apartment. The following exchange then occurred:
OFFICER SPIEGEL: I was knocking profusely. I need to talk to
MS. STENGEL: Okay.
OFFICER SPIEGEL: And I need to know that he's not coming
down with a gun.
MS. STENGEL: Oh, no, he doesn't own a gun.
OFFICER SPIEGEL: It doesn't matter, there is a gun in the
MS. STENGEL: Okay.
OFFICER SPIEGEL: Which you said so and it's loaded. I
need for him to come down (inaudible) without any weapon.
MS. STENGEL: I tried to wake him up. He's not waking up.
OFFICER SPIEGEL: Is he your roommate?
MS. STENGEL: No, he's my brother. My little brother.
OFFICER SPIEGEL: Your little brother wrecked his car tonight.
(Inaudible) car. Okay. And we're here to try to make
contact with him. And when we hear a weapon being loaded, we
get a little nervous.
MS. STENGEL: Yes.
OFFICER SPIEGEL: And so I need your permission to go inside
to make contact with Evan.
MS. STENGEL: Yes. Can we put the little dog up?
Motion to Suppress, May 17, 2017 at 39-40.
Officers entered the home, followed Mr. Meyer up the stairs,
and watched him secure the firearm, which he had previously
loaded. Mr. Meyer then directed officers to Stengel's
room. It is unclear whether the bedroom door was open,
closed, or ajar when law enforcement reached it. Law
enforcement entered Stengel's room to check on him.
Both officers entered the bedroom and found Stengel asleep.
The lights were off, so the officers illuminated the bedroom
with their flashlights. The officers roused Stengel and asked
him if he was injured in the crash, and ensured he was
unarmed. After ensuring Stengel was not in need of medical
attention and that he did not have any passengers with him
when he crashed, Officer Spiegel advised Stengel of his
Miranda warnings. Stengel was advised of his
Miranda rights by Officer Spiegel who stated,
"All right. I'm going to read you something just so
I can say I did." T. Motion to Suppress, May 17, 2017 at
52. After advising Stengel of his right to remain silent and
the fact that anything he said would be used against him in a
court of law, Officer Spiegel asked Stengel if he understood.
Stengel replied, "Some of it." Officer Spiegel
proceeded to advise Stengel of his additional
Miranda rights. After Officer Spiegel completed the
advisement of Miranda rights, he asked, "Would
you talk to us about the accident?"
Stengel then proceeded to answer questions from Officer
Spiegel and made a number of incriminating statements
regarding his involvement in the accident and the consumption
of alcoholic beverages. Stengel was eventually taken outside
the apartment where Officer Howell conducted standardized
field sobriety tests. Howell observed four clues on the