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State v. Flood

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 25, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Kurt A. Flood, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEALS from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, No. 15CR-1590.

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Sheryl L. Prichard, for appellee.


          Sheryl L. Prichard.

         On brief:

          Todd W. Barstow, for appellant.


          Todd W. Barstow.


          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Kurt A. Flood, appeals from a judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas finding him guilty, pursuant to jury verdict, of murder, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse. He additionally appeals from an amended judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentencing him to an aggregate sentence of 19 years to life in prison. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} By indictment filed March 30, 2015, plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, charged Flood with one count of murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02, an unclassified felony; one count of felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11, a second-degree felony; one count of endangering children in violation of R.C. 2919.22, a second-degree felony; one count of tampering with evidence in violation of R.C. 2921.12, a third-degree felony; and one count of gross abuse of a corpse in violation of R.C. 2927.01, a fifth-degree felony. The charges related to the death of C.B. Flood entered a plea of not guilty.

         {¶ 3} At a jury trial beginning February 6, 2018, Shane Howard, an officer with the Columbus Division of Police, testified that on December 29, 2014 he responded to a police dispatch to a report of a missing child at the Logan's Steakhouse near Easton Town Centre. Officer Howard testified that upon arriving at Logan's Steakhouse, he encountered Dainesha Stevens who informed him that she could not locate her six-year-old daughter, Ch.B. Stevens told Officer Howard that she had been staying with a friend, Flood, and that she believed her daughter was with one of Flood's friends. After Stevens provided police officers with a phone number of the friend, the officers were able to use a police database to determine an address associated with the phone number. Officers went to the address, located Ch.B., and placed her in the custody of Franklin County Children's Services.

         {¶ 4} Before police located Ch.B., Stevens also provided the officers with Flood's telephone number and the telephone number of Ch.B.'s father, who lived in Frederick, Maryland. When police called Ch.B.'s father, he informed them that he had contacted the Frederick Police Department about his two missing children. After the officers verified the father's report with the Frederick Police Department, the officers confronted Stevens with the existence of a second child, a 14-month-old baby named C.B. Stevens told the officers that she and Flood had no heat or electricity so she had dropped C.B. on the doorstep of a random house. Though she initially maintained her story about leaving C.B. on a random doorstep, Stevens changed her story a few days later, executing a defendant's agreement pursuant to which she testified on behalf of the state at Flood's trial.

         {¶ 5} Stevens testified that Flood urged her to come to Columbus from Maryland to escape an abusive relationship with Ch.B. and C.B.'s father. She arrived in Columbus around December 15, 2014 and moved in with Flood. Stevens testified that Flood became increasingly frustrated with having young children in the house, stating that Flood believed C.B. was possessed by a demon and often urged Stevens to discipline him. Stevens admitted to disciplining C.B., but she testified she only "popped him" on the buttocks with her hand and never left any marks on him. (Tr. Vol. 2 at 276.) However, Stevens said she witnessed Flood hit C.B. with his hands, a belt, and a stick.

         {¶ 6} According to Stevens' testimony, sometime around December 24, 2014, Flood convinced her to send Ch.B. to his friend's house. That evening, Stevens said Flood severely beat C.B. on his stomach and buttocks before C.B. went to bed. The next day, Stevens said C.B. was sluggish and would not breastfeed. Stevens said she noticed his feet had turned purple. The following day, December 26, 2014, Flood found C.B. stiff and cold in his bed. Stevens testified that she and Flood attempted CPR and tried to place him in a cold bathtub to revive him, but they realized he had died.

         {¶ 7} Stevens testified she wanted C.B. to be buried, so she and Flood initially placed C.B.'s body in a small box but the box was not big enough. Next, Stevens said she and Flood placed C.B.'s body in a plastic grocery bag and then inside a backpack, and Stevens and Flood then walked around with the backpack trying to decide where to dispose of the body. They attempted to bury the backpack but the ground was frozen. Ultimately, Stevens said she and Flood decided to throw C.B.'s body into Big Walnut Creek which was near Flood's home. Stevens said they waited until it was dark and then rode bicycles, with the backpack in tow, to a wooded area near the creek. At that point, Stevens said Flood disappeared into the woods with the backpack and returned a few minutes later without it. Stevens said that Flood told her that he had thrown the backpack into the water.

         {¶ 8} After disposing of C.B.'s body, Stevens said that C.B. and Ch.B.'s father continued to call her demanding to speak to his children. Due to his frequent phone calls, Stevens said she and Flood developed the random porch story as an explanation for C.B.'s absence. Stevens did ultimately admit to assaulting C.B.

         {¶ 9} On December 31, 2014, the Columbus Police dive team located the backpack in Big Walnut Creek containing C.B.'s frozen body. The Franklin County Coroner's Officer determined C.B.'s cause of death was "violence of undetermined origin," and that homicide was the manner of death. (Tr. Vol. 1 at 244.)

         {¶ 10} Michae Evans, a friend of Flood's, testified that Flood came to her home with Stevens after C.B. died. Evans testified that Flood told her he had buried a body, and that Flood confessed to her that he had hit a child, put him to bed, and found him dead the next morning. At first, Evans said she did not take Flood seriously because he was talking about the children being possessed by demons. However, when she saw on the news the next morning a story about a missing baby boy, she feared Flood was being serious and called the police.

         {¶ 11} Flood testified in his own defense and denied ever assaulting C.B. or Ch.B. Additionally, he denied ever believing that either child was possessed by demons. He did admit to disposing of C.B.'s body in Big Walnut Creek, but he maintained that Stevens was the one who beat C.B. and that disposing of the body was Stevens' idea.

         {¶ 12} At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all five counts. The matter proceeded to a sentencing hearing on February 22, 2018, during which the trial court stated Flood's convictions of felonious assault and endangering children would merge with his conviction of murder. However, the trial court declined to merge Flood's convictions of tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse, over Flood's objections. The trial court then announced that it would sentence Flood to 15 years to life on the murder conviction, 3 years on the tampering with evidence conviction, and 1 year on the gross abuse of a corpse conviction, ordering the sentences to run consecutively for an aggregate prison sentence of 19 years to life. However, when the trial court journalized Flood's convictions and sentence in a February 23, 2018 judgment entry, the entry stated Flood's sentences were to be served concurrent with each other for an aggregate sentence of 15 years to life. Flood timely appealed from the February 23, 2018 judgment entry.

         {¶ 13} While his appeal was pending from the February 23, 2018 judgment entry, the trial court issued an amended judgment entry on September 20, 2018. The amended judgment entry added an additional paragraph regarding the requirements of R.C. 2929.14(C)(4) related to consecutive sentences and stated, as the court did at the sentencing hearing, that Flood's sentences are to be served consecutive to each other for an aggregate sentence of 19 years ...

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