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LARRY DONNELL RUFFIN v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

FEBRUARY 22, 1984

LARRY DONNELL RUFFIN
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE BROOM, P.J., HAWKINS and DAN LEE, JJ.

HAWKINS, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Larry Donnell Ruffin was convicted of murder and given a life sentence at a bifurcated trial in Harrison County. A change of venue from Forrest County had been granted due to pre-trial publicity.

FACTS

 In the rural community of Eatonville in Forrest County, on May 4, 1979, the residences of Dwayne and Eva Gail Patterson and Charles Smith were approximately 200 feet distance from each other. Dwayne Patterson was employed on an offshore oil rig and not home that day.

 Around 10 that evening, as Mrs. Smith and her daughter Michelle Jones were preparing to retire, there

 was a banging on the door and a ringing of the doorbell. Eva Gail Patterson was at the back of her house, floundering. Her two little children were following her, and the little four-year-old son was screaming: "A Black man tried to hurt my mommy."

 Mrs. Patterson died in a pool of her own blood in the carport of the Smith residence. She died from massive blood loss from a seven-inch slash around her throat which severed veins, arteries and the trachea. She had also been stabbed four times in her abdomen. Live spermatozoa were found in her vagina.

 Her gown and bedspread contained hairs of Negroid origin.

 On May 4 Ruffin was living at the Restitution Center of Forrest County, following a conviction of burglary in March. He was 20 years old. That afternoon he was given a twelve-hour pass, but did not return. He was apprehended May 5, hiding in the bathroom of his girl friend, and was arrested for parole violation, was kept at the jail and not returned to the Restitution Center. Investigation of Ruffin on suspicion of the murder of Mrs. Patterson was begun.

 Investigation implicated two other Blacks, Bobby Ray Dixon and Philip Leo Bivens, who were indicted for and pleaded guilty to murder charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Both were state witnesses in Ruffin's trial.

 After his arrest Ruffin made two separate written confessions to raping and murdering Mrs. Patterson, one on May 30, and the other June 12. On July 3 law enforcement officers at his direction went to the Patterson residence, and Ruffin described how he stood outside the home, how he gained entrance and how he left following the crimes.

 On August 2, 1979, he was indicted by the Forrest County Grand Jury for murder of Mrs. Patterson while engaged in the commission of the crime of rape, in violation of 97-3-19 (2)(e) Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended.

 In a bifurcated trial Ruffin was found guilty of capital murder, but in the sentencing phase the jury could not agree on the form of punishment.

 Further pertinent facts will be set forth under

 the assignment of error.

 SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

 No claim is made the circuit judge erred in admitting the confessions into evidence. Rather, it is contended that the confessions are so contradictory, and the testimony of the two accomplices so inconsistent and incredible as to defy belief.

 As an appellate Court we must view the evidence offered on behalf of the state in its most favorable light. Young v. State, 425 So.2d 1022 (Miss. 1983); Warn v. State, 349 So.2d 1055 (Miss. 1977); and Carroll v. State, 196 So.2d 878 (Miss. 1967).

 The physical facts demonstrate as ghastly a murder as can be envisioned. A harmless young housewife was raped in her home, and her throat slashed from ear-to-ear in the presence of her two little terrified children.

 On May 30 Ruffin confessed to standing outside her home, peeping through the windows and door, gaining entrance by the sliding door, and hiding behind some curtains. He further confessed to springing on her and at knife point raping her. After relating the rape, the confession concludes:

 . . . I was fraid the little boy was going to see me and she was hollering that she was going to call the police and the little boy started crying. I told her to shut up and I put my knife on her side and I told her that I would stick it through her ribs if she don't shut up. I took my knife and stuck it round her throat and I meaned to cut her straight down but the knife went round her throat. I got up and she grabbed her throat and then I went to the kitchen and I ran by the little boy and I grabbed a towel that was ...


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