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Snow v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 24, 2019

Thomas Jeffrie Snow, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Lake Superior Court The Honorable Samuel L. Cappas, Judge Trial Court Cause Nos. 45G04-1408-FD-137 45G04-1404-MR-3

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT R. Brian Woodward Crown Point, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Lyubov Gore Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          TAVITAS, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Thomas Snow appeals his convictions for two counts of murder after a jury convicted him of murdering his parents.[1] We affirm.

         Issues

         [¶2] Snow presents several issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as follows:

I. Whether the trial court properly admitted evidence found during a search of the victims' residence in which Snow also resided.
II. Whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Snow of murder.

         Facts

         [¶3] Clifford Snow ("Clifford") and Joyce Snow ("Joyce") owned a residence in Lowell, Indiana (the "residence"). Snow, their son, lived with them. Julie Niemeyer, Snow's sister and Clifford and Joyce's daughter, lived in Missouri. Niemeyer spoke with her parents by telephone once per month and visited her parents at the residence two or three times per year. Niemeyer spoke with Joyce on August 27, 2013, and Clifford on September 11, 2013. Typically, Clifford and Joyce called Niemeyer on her birthday-September 30th- however, on September 30, 2013, Niemeyer did not hear from her parents.

         [¶4] The next day, on October 1, Niemeyer telephoned her parents. Snow answered and stated that Clifford and Joyce were out walking the dogs. Snow also told Niemeyer that he installed security cameras in the residence due to area break-ins. Niemeyer asked Snow to have Clifford and Joyce return her call, but they never did.

         [¶5] Also on October 1, Snow stopped by the home of Dennis and Samantha Roper, friends of Clifford and Joyce. Snow told the Ropers that his parents were out of town in Germany for a couple of weeks. At the time, Dennis was surprised to hear the news, as Clifford did not enjoy traveling or flying "that great of a distance." [2] Tr. Vol. II p. 72. Snow also told Dennis that there was a "major septic backup" in the basement of the residence. Id. at 76. Snow told Dennis he did not "want nobody [sic] down there until [Snow got] this cleaned up and resolved." [3] Id. at 77. That day, Dennis observed Snow driving Clifford's GMC truck, which was unusual. [4]

         [¶6] Snow also told other neighbors similar stories regarding Clifford's and Joyce's out of town trip. Snow asked neighbors to let Snow know if anything looked out of the ordinary at the residence. Snow also asked to shower at the neighbors' house because of the septic issue; the neighbors declined. Snow told a former neighbor that Clifford died of a heart attack while mowing the lawn and that Joyce travelled to Missouri to be with Niemeyer after Clifford's death.[5]

         [¶7] On October 5, 2013, Officer Laurie Reilly of the Lake County Sheriff's Department stopped a vehicle that was improperly towing another vehicle. Snow was in the lead vehicle, and Joey Montgomery was in the towed vehicle. Snow and Montgomery knew one another because Snow often purchased crack cocaine from Montgomery. While Officer Reilly checked Snow's and Montgomery's information in her squad car, Snow detached the two vehicles and drove away, leading officers on a pursuit that continued through a residential area. Snow led the officers through a cornfield before Snow was able to get away. Officers went to the residence immediately afterwards, but did not find Snow there.[6] One of Clifford's trucks was later found in Ford Heights, Illinois, with corn stalks and garbage bags in the truck bed. The garbage bag contained a cordless phone, a pillow case, gym shoes, various clothes, and a drill.

         [¶8] On Friday, October 18, a cousin contacted Niemeyer and expressed concern for Clifford. The cousin heard that Clifford died, and the cousin was unable to contact Joyce. Niemeyer attempted unsuccessfully to reach her parents and Snow. Niemeyer ultimately contacted the Lake County Sheriff's Department and requested a welfare check. Officers David Crane, Bryan Kersey, Louie Garcia, and Mike Reilly were dispatched to the residence.

         [¶9] After walking around the outside of the house, officers reported to Niemeyer that they saw a dumpster in the front yard, the dogs barking in the window, and several unopened newspapers piled in the driveway. Officer Crane previously visited the residence between October 5 and October 18 to look for Snow and encountered no one on the property.

         [¶10] Officers did not get a response when they knocked on the doors. Niemeyer was alarmed that the property was in disarray because Clifford kept the yard neat. Niemeyer acknowledged that she never lived in the residence.[7] Niemeyer directed officers to enter the house, even if that meant breaking down the door.

         [¶11] The officers ultimately made forced entry by kicking in a door. Immediately, the officers identified "a strong pungent odor of decomposition," and dog feces. Tr. Vol. III p. 3. The officers began checking the house to determine whether there was anyone inside the house who needed assistance. While placing the dogs in the kennel, the officers noticed a pile of debris in the garage, including a tarp and rolled up carpet, with an unknown fluid seeping from the pile.

         [¶12] In the bathroom at the top of the stairs, officers saw another large pile of carpet in the bathtub. The shower curtain was pulled down, and a bag of cat litter was poured over the debris. The officers identified blood on the bathroom floor. Officers were able to identify the body of a female in the bathroom. Officers returned to the garage and observed that the debris was covered in blood and maggots.

         [¶13] At this point, officers determined the scene would require a crime scene technician; they exited the residence and contacted detectives and the crime lab. Officers secured the scene and searched the wooded area around the house.

         [¶14] Dennis Eaton, a division commander, subsequently arrived at the residence. Commander Eaton was informed there was at least one decedent in the residence, who was presumed to be a homicide victim. Commander Eaton obtained a search ...


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