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Carroll v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

May 2, 2019


          Circuit Court for Cecil County Case No. K-15-470

          Fader, C.J., Berger, Kenney, James A., III (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.


          KENNEY, J.

         Earl and Mary Ann Loomis were murdered during a home invasion in Port Deposit, Maryland in February 2015. A jury in the Circuit Court for Cecil County convicted appellant Derrick L. Carroll of two counts of first-degree murder in addition to multiple conspiracy counts in regard to that event.

         On appeal, appellant presents two questions for our review:

1. Did the trial court err in denying appellant's motion to suppress evidence?
2. Did the trial court plainly err in permitting the prosecutor to argue that appellant's motive was racial animosity?

         For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.


         Prior to February 22, 2015

         The Loomises were the grandparents of appellant's ex-wife, Kimber Carroll, who considered them her parents. It appears that appellant's relationship with the Loomises may have been initially cordial, but had deteriorated over time. According to Ms. Carroll's testimony, when she and appellant were dating in 2012 and she was living with the Loomises, she would sometimes sneak appellant into their house where he stayed without her grandparents' knowing. She explained that he was not "allowed to stay there" because of how the Loomises "felt about him," and that he had expressed to her that the Loomises disliked him. After Ms. Carroll and appellant married and moved into an apartment, the Loomises changed the locks to their home, and their relationship with her deteriorated as a result of her drug addiction. Appellant also used drugs and sold them.

         Ms. Carroll's aunt testified that the week before the murder, Mrs. Loomis told her that she didn't like appellant and that she wanted her niece to "straighten out" and "stay away" from him. Appellant testified that he had had a good relationship with Mrs. Loomis, who was not opposed to him staying at the house, but he acknowledged that Mr. Loomis had expressed concerns about Ms. Carroll and appellant being together.

         Both Ms. Carroll and appellant testified about an incident that happened in 2013, when, at the time, she and appellant had split up, and she was living with the Loomises. According to Ms. Carroll, she was due in court that day, and appellant stopped by their house to take her there. Mr. Loomis indicated that he would be the one to take her to court. Appellant and Mr. Loomis argued, and appellant attempted to get into the house. The confrontation ended in about ten minutes.

         Appellant testified that the incident related to a custody hearing for their daughter, who was in foster care at the time. Appellant and his then fiancée, Lauren Bucaro, would be awarded custody, but only if Ms. Carroll consented. Appellant testified that, when he went to the Loomises' house to pick her up for the hearing, Mr. Loomis said that he would take her to court. Appellant and Mr. Loomis argued, but appellant did not attempt to enter the house and left after Mr. Loomis asked him to. He felt no ill will towards the Loomises because they helped support his daughter and he was grateful for that.

         Appellant's mother, who had also helped care for appellant's daughter, testified that she maintained a good relationship with the Loomises. And, in a statement to police, appellant's girlfriend at the time, Kayla Way-Nunley, stated that appellant never spoke ill about Ms. Carroll's family.

         February 22 and 23, 2015

         At trial, witnesses gave conflicting accounts as to what took place on the night of February 22, 2015 and the following day. There is no dispute, however, that on the night of February 22, there was a gathering, referred to by witnesses as a "tattoo party," at Ellen Lough's trailer in Port Deposit with at least seven individuals present. They included appellant, Ellen Lough, London Anderson, Azu Azuewah, Ashley Browe, Kayla Way-Nunley, and a person known as "Hummer."[1]

         Anderson[2] testified that he was friends with Azuewah, that Lough was Azuewah's long-term girlfriend, and that he spent a lot of time in their trailer. During the party, appellant got tattooed on his hands by Hummer. According to Anderson, on the morning of February 23, appellant entered the trailer with "a couple of cases of guns, ammunition," and a blue or green Chevy S-10 truck was parked outside. Anderson helped appellant bring the guns inside. When Anderson asked appellant where he obtained the guns, appellant said that he had "robbed . . . his daughter's grandparents, "[3]and had "duct-taped their faces until they couldn't breathe."

         Anderson testified that appellant, Lough, Azuewah, and Hummer discussed dumping the S-10 near White Marsh. They left the trailer to do so with appellant taking a taxi and the others riding in the S-10 or Lough's car. After returning to the trailer, Anderson slept; when he woke up, the guns were gone. Anderson denied any involvement in the burglary or murders, or that he had gone to the Loomises' house. He did not contact the police because he was scared.[4]

         Browe testified that she was staying at Lough's trailer in February 2015. On the night of February 22, appellant was present at the tattoo party, along with Anderson and Azuewah, and got hand tattoos. Between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. on February 23, Browe awoke to the sounds of appellant entering the trailer, bringing in "bags of guns" and saying "[y]ou guys left me."

         Way-Nunley, who was, at the time, appellant's girlfriend, testified that she and appellant attended the tattoo party on the night of February 22, along with Anderson and Browe. When she woke up the next morning at 8:00 a.m., appellant was present and Anderson was gone. She saw a blue truck outside the trailer, which she and appellant drove to White Marsh. Lough and Azuewah followed in their car. According to Way-Nunley, she did not see any guns, jewelry, or documents.[5]

         Way-Nunley gave police two statements which were played for the jury. In the first statement on February 26, 2015, she told police that she was with appellant throughout the night of February 22, and that they never left the trailer. However, Azuewah and Lough left and returned to the trailer repeatedly. Way-Nunley added that she can be a heavy sleeper and that appellant may have left without her knowing. If he "did anything" while she was asleep, "that's on him." She denied knowing anything about a crime.

         In the second statement on March 17, 2015, Way-Nunley stated that, when she fell asleep on February 22, appellant was next to her watching television. She slept in a back room of the trailer, and when she woke up the next morning, she did not see any guns. But, she did overhear Lough arguing with Azuewah and asking, "why is this shit in here[?]" Appellant and Azuewah locked themselves in a bathroom and talked. At some point, Way-Nunley saw a greenish pickup truck parked outside, with Azeuwah in the driver's seat and appellant in the passenger seat. She was only "50 percent" sure about who drove, but the two of them dropped the truck off in a parking lot near Baltimore. She struggled to remember details because she was "pretty high that day."

         Rebecca Garland lived in the trailer adjacent to Lough's. She testified that at about 8:30 a.m. on February 23, she saw a man whom she didn't know getting "black garbage bags out of the back of a blue pickup truck" that was "consistent with" Mr. Loomis's S-10. He was "hollering back and forth" with a woman whom Garland did not recognize. He and the woman took the bags into Lough's trailer. About an hour later, when Garland went outside to sit on her porch, the same man walked past her and they said "hi" to each other. When police asked Garland to identify the man shortly after the incident, she was unable to do so. But later, she was able to identify appellant based on an internet search of the Loomis murders, where his name and photograph appeared in a newspaper story. She did not, however, call the police to tell them. At trial, she identified appellant as the man that she saw.

         Appellant testified that he and Way-Nunley came to the tattoo party and that he got his hands tattooed at approximately 9:00 p.m. Because his hands were sore and tender, he used heroin and drank a large amount of alcohol to numb the pain. He fell asleep in the trailer. When he awoke the next morning, Way-Nunley was with him. Anderson and Browe were not there, but eventually they returned to the trailer. Lough and Azuewah left that morning.

         According to appellant, he did not leave the trailer on February 23. He repeatedly tried to call Azuewah, but Azuewah did not pick up. On February 24, when Azuewah and Lough had still not returned, he left in a cab. He did see and greet Garland, but on the morning of February 24, not the 23rd. He never brought guns into Lough's trailer or unloaded anything from a truck, and he denied ever seeing guns or the S-10 truck.

         The Investigation, Arrest, and Search

         Neighbors and family members testified that they had last spoken with Mr. and Mrs. Loomis on February 22, 2015. They were unable to reach them on February 23, and Mr. Loomis's blue S-10 truck was missing from the Loomises' driveway. When Ms. Carroll and her aunt went to the house to check on them on February 25, they found Mr. and Mrs. Loomis's bodies in an upstairs room with their hands and faces wrapped in duct tape. Both had died of asphyxia from being wrapped in tape. There were bleach stains on and around their bodies, which had sustained chemical burns. It was unclear whether the burns were sustained before or after they had died.

         Although the S-10 was missing, Mr. Loomis's Ford Escape and Mrs. Loomis's Honda CRV were still in the driveway. The Escape had been "rummaged" through, and papers were spread throughout the vehicle. Ms. Carroll's aunt believed that there was a "good possibility" that Mr. Loomis kept important papers in the Escape.

         The house had also been ransacked. Fire extinguisher fluid, bleach, and cleaning products had been sprayed throughout the house, which prevented the police from collecting forensic evidence. Mr. Loomis was a gun collector, and Mrs. Loomis collected jewelry; both the gun safe and jewelry boxes had been emptied. Mrs. Loomis's home office had not been "disturbed," but papers were strewn about Mr. Loomis's home office, and an "extreme amount" of fire extinguisher fluid had been sprayed throughout the room. Mr. Loomis's will was found in his home office.

         Ms. Carroll was not a beneficiary under the will. She testified that the Loomises told her they were leaving their money to her aunt, who would "take care of" her.[6] While Ms. Carroll denied ever saying that she expected to inherit from the Loomises, appellant testified that Ms. Carroll had told him that she expected to inherit a large sum of money from them. Lauren Bucaro testified that Ms. Carroll had told her that "her grandparents weren't giving her money anymore," but "if anything would ever happen to them that she would be very well off."

         Appellant's mother, who had maintained a relationship with Ms. Carroll, testified that Ms. Carroll called her on February 25 and said that she was going to check on the Loomises. She called again shortly thereafter and said they were dead. According to appellant's mother, Ms. Carroll expressed "[n]o feelings, no crying, nothing." Shortly after the funeral, Ms. Carroll called her again and asked how she could find out if Mr. and Mrs. Loomis had another will. Ms. Carroll denied having spoken to appellant's mother.

         Mr. Loomis's S-10 was found in a parking lot in Perryville on February 26. Detectives traced the Loomises' bank records and obtained video of Lough using their bank card after they had been killed. Documents that belonged to Mr. Loomis and a ski mask were later found inside Lough and Azuewah's car.[7]

         Having developed appellant as a suspect in the robbery and homicide of the Loomises, law enforcement, on February 26, 2015, learned that he had gone to Trenton, New Jersey and was in the area of 27-29 Bryn Mawr Avenue. And, because there was an outstanding arrest warrant for appellant for an earlier robbery in Elkton on February 9, members of the U.S. Marshal's Office Fugitive Task Force ("U.S. Marshals") began surveillance of the Bryn Mawr Avenue residence. They observed appellant exit this residence, carrying a white trash bag, and walk down the sidewalk and out of view between 57 and 59 Bryn Mawr Avenue. When he reemerged without the white bag, the U.S. Marshals took him into custody. They then proceeded to the side of 59 Bryn Mawr Avenue, where they observed three black garbage bags, one of which was open with a white bag on top.

         That same day, a police officer from the Mercer County Homicide Taskforce, after conversing with Cecil County police officers, prepared an affidavit in support of a search warrant to search the residence at 27 Bryn Mawr Avenue where appellant had been staying and the black garbage bag with the white bag on top.

         The affiant, Sergeant Paul Toth of the Mercer County Homicide Taskforce, stated, in pertinent part:

I have probable cause to believe and do believe that evidence relating to the death of Earl Loomis and Mary Ann Loomis may be present within a certain residence and a black garbage bag.
* * *
The facts tending to establish the grounds for the application and probable cause for my belief that such grounds exist are as follows:
a. An investigation involving the Cecil County Sheriff's Office and the Mercer County Homicide Task Force is being conducted into the death of Earl Loomis and Mary Ann Loomis that occurred in Elkton, Maryland on February 25, 2015. On Wednesday, February 25 2015, the Cecil County Sheriff's Office in Maryland responded to the address of 106 West Parkway in Elkton, Maryland after receiving a call for service in reference to suspicious circumstances.
b. Cecil County Sheriff's Office arrived at 106 West Parkway and located the bodies of two deceased persons in an upstairs bathroom area. The two bodies appeared to have been bound by duct tape at the hands and feet with tape also wrapped around the faces of each person. The two bodies were identified at [sic] Earl Loomis and Mary Ann Loomis.
c. Derrick Carroll, date of birth June 18, 1989 had an arrest warrant issued for Robbery (Home Invasion) that occurred in Elkton, Maryland on February 9, 2015. Derrick Carroll was identified as a suspect in the Robbery Home Invasion that occurred in Elkton, Maryland on February 9, 2015. Derrick Carroll is also a suspect in the homicide of Earl Loomis and Mary Ann Loomis.
d. On Thursday, February 26, 2015, members of the United States Marshal's Office Fugitive Taskforce received information that Derrick Carroll may be at a residence in the area of 27-29 Bryn Mawr Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey. [U.S. Marshals] began surveillance of the Bryn Mawr Avenue homes. [U.S. Marshals] observed Derrick Carroll exit the residence at 27 Bryn Mawr Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey. They further observed Derrick Carroll was carrying a white trash bag. They observed Carroll walk down the sidewalk on Bryn Mawr Avenue towards Volk Street, Trenton, New Jersey.
e. Investigator Dean Wylie from the [U.S. Marshals'] Taskforce observed Derrick Carroll walk between 57 and 59 Bryn Mawr Avenue while carrying the white trash bag. Approximately fifteen seconds later, Derrick Carroll was observed exiting back out from between 57 and 59 Bryn Mawr Avenue without the white trash bag in hand. [U.S. Marshals] then took Derrick Carroll into custody.
f. Once Derrick Carroll was in custody, Investigator Dean Wylie proceeded to the side of 59 Bryn Mawr Avenue where he observed 3 black colored garbage bags on the side of 59 Bryn Mawr. Investigator Wylie noticed one ...

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