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Jarrett v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

December 17, 2014


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Howard County. Richard S. Berhardt, Judge.

Argued by: Sherrie B. Glasser (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellant.

Argued by: James E. Williams (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD for Appellee.

Berger, Nazarian, Leahy, JJ.


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[220 Md.App. 573] Berger, J.

On January 3, 1991, Christine Jarrett (" Christine" ), age thirty-four, went missing. Twenty-one years later, on April 18,

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2012, skeletal remains later identified as Christine's were found buried under the backyard shed of the home on Claire Drive in Howard County in which Christine had previously resided with her husband, Robert A. Jarrett, Jr. (" Jarrett" ). In the evening of April 18, 2012, Jarrett was placed under arrest. Jarrett was subsequently charged with murder and associated crimes relating to Christine's death. Following a jury trial, Jarrett was convicted of second-degree murder.

[220 Md.App. 574] On appeal, Jarrett raises four issues for our review, which we have rephrased slightly as follows:

1. Whether the circuit court erred by permitting the State to play for the jury certain recordings of jail calls between Jarrett and his son.
2. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by declining to give a jury instruction on the gross negligence variation of involuntary manslaughter.
3. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by giving a concealment of evidence jury instruction.
4. Whether the circuit court abused its discretion by declining to give a " missing evidence" jury instruction.

For the following reasons, we answer each question in the negative. Accordingly, we shall affirm the judgment of the Circuit Court for Howard County.


The following evidence was adduced at trial. Jarrett and Christine were high school sweethearts who married in 1974. In 1983, they moved to 6050 Claire Drive, in the Elkridge area of Howard County. They had two children, Robert Jarrett, III (" Bobby" ) and Michael Jarrett, ages ten and five, respectively, at the time of Christine's disappearance in 1991. Jarrett worked in the HVAC industry, and Christine was employed in a factory until she suffered a work-related injury in the late 1980s, after which she became a full-time homemaker.

The Jarretts' marriage suffered from frequent quarrels over money, and both Jarrett and Christine had engaged in extramarital affairs. Bobby described his parents' marriage as " tumultuous" and saw his father push his mother to the floor during an argument on at least one occasion. Christine's friends, Donna Madera, Marsha Smallwood, Cindy Fryer, and Cindy Travis, were aware of Christine's unhappiness with respect to her marriage. Christine had made comments to Madera and Smallwood about wanting to leave and not return, [220 Md.App. 575] but, according to Christine's friends, Christine was a devoted mother who would not have left her sons.

Patricia Mueller, Christine's sister, remembered a particular altercation between Christine and Jarrett in June of 1990. Christine called Patricia and Patricia's son, David, in tears and asked them to pick her up from a nearby drugstore. Patricia and David went to pick up Christine. When they arrived at the drugstore, the side of Christine's face was red and swollen, Christine had a cut on the bridge of her nose, and Christine's glasses were broken. Christine told Patricia and David that Jarrett and she had argued about an outfit she planned to wear to a neighborhood barbeque. Christine further described how Jarrett had grabbed and beaten her. Patricia and David encouraged Christine to go to the emergency room and seek medical attention for her injuries, but Christine refused, saying that she did not want to get Jarrett in trouble.

On January 4, 1991, when Bobby woke up to get ready for school, Christine was nowhere to be found in the family's home. Bobby saw Jarrett sleeping on top of the covers of the bed, fully dressed. Bobby remembered thinking it was unusual for

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Jarrett to be home on a weekday. In the evening of January 4, 1991, Jarrett contacted neighbors and friends, explaining that he was looking for Christine because she had left the previous evening following an argument and failed to return. Jarrett contacted the police after he learned that none of Christine's friends had heard from her.

The following day, Officer Thomas O'Connor met with Jarrett. Jarrett completed a missing persons report. Officer O'Connor noted that Jarrett was " extremely concerned and emotional." The case was turned over to Detective Steve Greisz after Christine failed to return within several days. Detective Greisz met with Jarrett on January 7, 1991. Jarrett told Detective Greisz about Christine and Jarrett's history of marital discord, including a separation for several months in mid-1990. Jarrett told Detective Greisz that on the evening of January 3, 1991, Christine and he had argued about finances. According to Jarrett, he went to sleep in the basement [220 Md.App. 576] following the argument. Later that evening, Jarrett went up to the bedroom, but Christine was not there. Jarrett explained that Christine had not returned the next morning. Jarrett showed Detective Greisz a bank withdrawal slip showing that Christine had withdrawn $4,200.00 in cash from a bank account in mid-December of 1990. In his report, Detective Griesz noted, " no physical, no push, in past -- yes -- hit her."

Detective Greisz continued to investigate Christine's disappearance by meeting with Christine's friends and family members. On January 9, 1991, Detective Greisz met with Norman Raines, a former high school friend of Christine's with whom Christine had a brief affair in 1990. Raines told Detective Greisz that he had spoken to Christine on several occasions in late 1990, but initially, Raines did not mention a sexual relationship. Raines told Detective Greisz that he was engaged in recreational " shooting" at Fort Meade on January 3, 1991. When Detective Greisz met with Raines again on September 25, 1991, Raines acknowledged that Christine and he had engaged in sexual relations in October of 1990. Raines told Detective Greisz that Christine had initially contacted him in the summer of 1990. According to Raines, Christine would call him once a week and tell him she loved him. Raines further explained that Christine and he had several lunches together. Raines acknowledged that Christine had told him that she " sometimes" thought about taking her money and leaving town.

Raines was called as a witness by the defense at trial and testified that he had a brief affair with Christine in 1990. He further testified that the last time he saw Christine was on December 21, 1990. Raines denied killing Christine or burying her body.

Forensic analysis performed at the Jarretts' home of the basement, stairs, and a mobile home owned by the Jarretts tested negative for blood. Detective Greisz testified that, to the best of his recollection, he had not gone around the outside of the Jarrett property. Christine's medical and dental records [220 Md.App. 577] were entered into a missing persons database and, within a year, the investigation was classified as inactive.

Jarrett began a relationship with Martha Jarrett (" Martha" ), his second wife, some months after Christine's disappearance. Jarrett told Martha that his relationship with Christine had not been " healthy" and that Christine and he had discussed divorce before Christine went missing. Martha and Jarrett married in June 1993 and their daughter was born in October 1993. Martha had a difficult relationship with Jarrett's sons and, as a result, Bobby moved out of the home in 2005. Martha and Jarrett ultimately separated in

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or around December 2011. Jarrett vacated the home on Claire Drive while Martha continued living at the home.

Jarrett's siblings, Brian and Donna, did not have a good relationship with Martha. On January 25, 2012, Jarrett engaged in a relevant email conversation with Brian and Donna. A printout of the email thread was admitted into evidence at trial. The siblings were discussing a location for a family dinner. The following conversation occurred:

Jarrett: Yanna, You better hurry up with the Kitchen project cause Char[1] said something Sunday about our next dinner date with gf[2] was going to be at your house next.
Donna: Lock Martha in the shed and have it on Claire Drive.
Brian: Oh my.
Donna: Was that wrong?
Jarrett: I might need a bigger shed, its [sic] getting crowded in there, should I put her beside the one that's already in there? Brian: It wouldn't be soon enough!

Brian testified that " Yanna" was a nickname Jarrett used for their sister, Donna, and that no one else used that nickname. [220 Md.App. 578] Brian further testified that he interpreted Jarrett's comment to be a joke.

Special Investigator Nicholas DeCarlo had assumed responsibility for Christine's case by 2005. Investigator DeCarlo was a retired detective from Montgomery County who was employed in a civilian capacity by the Howard County Police to investigate cold case homicides. In April 2012, Investigator DeCarlo became aware that Martha and Jarrett had separated and that Jarrett had left the Claire Drive residence. On April 17, 2012, Investigator DeCarlo went with Detective J. Daniel Lenick to meet with Martha at the home. They explained that they were investigating Christine's disappearance and asked for permission to search the property, including the shed and the ground beneath it. Martha consented to the search. During their search, Investigator DeCarlo and Detective Lenick observed that the shed had plywood floors and determined that additional tools were needed. They secured permission from Martha to return the following day with appropriate tools.

Investigator DeCarlo and Detective Lenick returned the following morning accompanied by a forensic technician. They removed the plank flooring of the shed and found approximately six inches of gravel below. They continued to dig and discovered a four-foot by two-foot, oval-shaped concrete slab with material embedded inside. They found what appeared to be human bone and stopped the excavation until a search warrant could be obtained.

A warrant was secured later that day. Investigator DeCarlo, Detective Lenick, and Office of the Medical Examiner (" OME" ) representatives returned to the Claire Drive residence and continued the excavation. Skeletal remains were found under the concrete block. Dr. William Rodriguez, an independent consultant for the OME and an expert in the area of forensic anthropology, supervised the removal of the remains. The deceased appeared to have been wearing a Disney shirt but had no undergarments or shoes. Personal items were recovered adjacent to the remains, including a jacket, [220 Md.App. 579] jewelry, purse, eyeglasses, photos of family members, and a Mickey Mouse wallet containing photographs and the name " Michael" in child-like handwriting. Several of the personal items were identified by Christine's family members as items that belonged the Christine, and various individuals

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confirmed that Christine had visited Disney World multiple times and often brought back Disney souvenirs.

Following the recovery of the remains, Jarrett was placed under arrest on the evening of April 18, 2012.

An autopsy was performed on April 19, 2012 by Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Patricia Aronica-Pollack. Dr. Aronica-Pollack identified the deceased as Christine by comparing the teeth to Christine's dental records. Evaluation of the skeletal remains showed no signs of trauma, asphyxiation, or disease. Dr. Aronica-Pollack was unable to ascertain a cause of death, but she did determine that the manner of death was homicide. At trial, Dr. Aronica-Pollack testified that there are " homicidal causes of death" that cannot be determined in circumstances when " the soft tissues are gone." Dr. Aronica-Pollack explained that it is possible for a person to have died from a gunshot wound, stabbing, blunt force trauma, or asphyxiation without any damage to the ...

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