State of Missouri v. Joseph Whitfield

939 S.W.2d 361 (Mo.banc 1997)

Reversed and Remanded – Resentenced 6-17-03 – Life without Parole – SCCC #990080

The evidence at trial, State v. Storey, 901 S.W.2d 886, 891 (Mo. banc 1995), reveals the following:

Case Facts:  On January 20, 1988, Ronald Chester, a paraplegic, picked up Maria Evans in his modified Lincoln to help him run some errands. Chester’s wheelchair was in the front passenger seat, and Evans sat in back. Alter completing the errands, Chester drove to the area of Sarah and Hodiamont streets in St. Louis, where he spoke with Joseph Whitfield.

Whitfield was accompanied by a young girl whom he identified as his daughter. An unidentified woman approached Chester’s car, claimed to be the young girl’s mother, and asked Chester to take Whitfield and the girl home. When Chester agreed to do so, Whitfield and the young girl climbed into the rear seat of Chester’s car with Evans. Whitfield was seated in the left rear behind the driver’s seat, the young girl in the center rear, and Evans on the right.

At Whitfield’s request, Chester agreed to stop at a liquor store and then to take Whitfield to St. Ferdinand Street. When they arrived at St. Ferdinand Street, Whitfield exited Chester’s car quickly, leaving the young girl behind. Chester, wanting to leave but not knowing what to do with the young girl, waited for thirty to forty minutes for Whitfield to return. When he did not, Chester returned to the area of Sarah and Hodiamont to look for the woman who had claimed to be the young girl’s mother. Unable to find her, he returned to St. Ferdinand, all the while carrying Evans and the young girl in his back seat.

Upon returning to St. Ferdinand, Chester parked in the same spot where he had left Whitfield. After a few minutes, Whitfield returned to the car, asked where Chester had been, and said that he would be just a few more minutes. When Whitfield exited the car this time, Evans asked him to take the young girl, but he refused. He then walked along the street to a car parked on the opposite side from, and one or two car lengths behind, Chester’s car. Charles Porter and his girlfriend Linda Scott were in this car. At trial Scott testified that they were in the neighborhood to have Varney Bolden, a friend of Porter’s, babysit Porter’s and Scott’s children. Porter was a friend of Whitfield’s, and Scott was acquainted with Whitfield.

Whitfield tried to obtain heroin from Porter and Scott, but Porter refused to give him any because Whitfield had no money. Porter then gave Whitfield a loaded .38 caliber pistol and said something, unclear from the testimony, about “the guy in the car across the street,” namely Chester.

Whitfield left Porter’s car and returned to Chester’s car, reentering the back seat directly behind Chester. Evans was still in the rear passenger side seat, and the young girl in the center. Whitfield then struck Chester in the back of the head with the gun and struck Evans in the forehead with the gun. About the same time, Bolden walked up to Chester’s car and urged Whitfield to shoot the two adults. Whitfield complied, shooting Chester twice in the head, causing Chester to slump across the steering wheel, and in turn causing the car to roll across the street and across the opposite curb. Whitfield then Turned toward Evans, but Evans grabbed the young girl and used her as a shield. Instead of shooting, Whitfield exited the car, pulling the young girl with him. From the passenger side, he then fired back into the car, at some point hitting Evans in the hand. Evans, hurt but alive, played dead, and Whit- field, Bolden, and the young girl fled.

Officer Jerry Leyshock heard a report of the shooting on his police radio and, having been previously acquainted with Whitfield, suspected he might be involved. He went to Barnes Hospital to speak with Evans, from whom he learned that the shooter and the young girl were named “Joe” and “Jodie.” Bolstered by this information, Officer Leyshock and several other officers went to a residence on Wells Street, where they located Whitfield, Scott, and Jodie. After retrieving the gun from the residence’s bathroom, the officers arrested Whitfield.