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WILLIE FROST v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI

FEBRUARY 19, 1986

WILLIE FROST
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, DAN LEE AND ANDERSON

DAN LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Willie Frost was convicted on April 15, 1983, of the murder of his two year old daughter, Theresa Coley. Frost received a sentence of life imprisonment. He appeals,

assigning as error that the confessions obtained from him while incarcerated were given involuntarily, and the trial court erred in admitting them into evidence.

 On December 7, 1981, Willie Frost reported to Bruff Turner, the chief of police of Como, Mississippi, that his two year old daughter, Theresa Coley, was missing. According to Frost, he had left the child in his car for seven or eight minutes while he went into a grocery store. When he returned to the car, the child was gone. The police, Willie, the child's mother (Mary Coley), Willie's wife, Cordelia, and several other concerned citizens searched diligently for the child, but could not find her.

 Willie had picked the child up at its mother's house a few hours before. As the last person seen with the child, he soon became the target of investigation. He was asked to take a polygraph test the next day, but upon arriving in Oxford to take the test, he changed his mind, and was transported back to the Panola County jail in Batesville. He remained in jail overnight, but was released the next day.

 Theresa's body was found in a cistern, located about one-half mile from Frost's house, on December 22, 1981. Frost was arrested on the same day and charged with Theresa's murder.

 From December 22, 1981, until December 27, 1981, no one from the sheriff's department talked to Willie about the crime. He was also not informed of his rights during that time. However, on December 27th, Willie had four visitors who were members of his Masonic lodge. Those visitors were Earnest Jackson, Felix Webb, Thomas Morman, and Robert Gibson. After the four lodge members had talked with Frost for about one hour, he signed a waiver of his rights and gave the following statement:

 On December 7, 1981, I was at Mary Coley's house. Betty Dean was on the outside of the house with Mrs. Sanford, the lady who owns the house Mary lives in. We had a discussion about the child. Me and Mary were making plans to see each other again. The plan was for me to pick Theresa up and leave her at the crossroads at the Four Way Inn Corner. Mary's cousin, unknown to me, was to pick the child up and carry the child to Memphis to her sister's house, Joyce Marie Wooten (Joyce Marie Sykes). I was to

 go back and pick Mary up and we were going to Memphis to her sister's house so we could get together. I told Mary around 3:05 and went to my trailer and put a piece on my water pipe. I stayed there about 30 minutes. I put the child in the car and started towards Como. The baby had on a blue cap, a red dress with blue and white collar. I got to the crossroads in about five minutes. I put the child out of the car and told her that someone would come and pick her up. The child said" alright Daddy ". I then went to Como and parked in front of Monroe Pointer's and went into the Sunflower store and returned about seven or eight minutes later. That's when I reported the child kidnapped. Me and Como P.D. looked for the child for a few minutes on the street then Chief Turner told me to go and get Mary. I left Como around 4:20 to go to Mary's. When I got to Mary's she was at home. I blew the horn and Mary came to the car. I told Mary what I had told the police the child had been kidnapped and that he wanted me to bring her to town to look for the child. She said okay. When we first planned to do this, Mary had told me I had better not say anything because if I did she would tell her daddy, George Willie Coley and George would kill me. After I got back to Como with Mary he told us to go back home and wait to see if the child showed up. I carried Mary home and let her out. I then went and picked Cordelia [his wife] up at Clarence Taylor's place. I told her that Theresa was missing and for her to come with me and go to Mary's house. Cordelia got into the car and starting raising Hell about it. She told me I did not have any business being over there. We left Mary's and went to Como. We talked to Chief Turner and talked about someone was pulling a prank or something. We had made these plans while the child was in the hospital. Mary's sister's husband, Robert Wooten picked the child up or at least that what Mary told me that was supposed to pick the child up.

 On December 28th Frost's lodge members returned to the jail. After speaking with them for a few minutes, Frost

 made the following statement:

 I clocked out at work at 1400 hours and in Senatobia where I work at Chromecraft. I made a stop in Senatobia at a lumber yard to get a part for my trailer. I bought an elbow part to go on my pipe. I then went to a car wash in Senatobia and washed my car. I left Senatobia and went to Como and went to Mary's house. I got there about 1440 hours and stayed until about 1505. I left Mary's house with Theresa and drove down to my trailer. I fixed the pipe under my trailer. It probably took me thirty minutes. I left the trailer and came by the Four Way Corner and crossed Highway 310 West to the next road passed 310 South that turns right and made a right turn. When I got to where the cistern was I stopped my car and took Theresa out of the car, picked her up in my arms and carried her up the bank to where the cistern was. When I got up to the cistern the top was off the cistern. I held her up under her arm pits and dropped her in the cistern. I heard her body hit the water but I never heard her cry out or say a word. I got back in my car, a 76 Cordova Chrysler, and went over the hill and turned around and drove back to Four Way Corner and turned right and went to Como. When I got to Como, I parked my car and went into the Sunflower store and bought a chicken can of Spam and some Vienna sausage. I stayed in the store about seven minutes. When left the store I went back to the car and that's when I began to ask if anyone had seen Theresa. I went on and reported the child kidnapped to Como P.D. I left Como about 4:20 and went to Mary's house. I told Mary that someone had gotten Theresa out of my car. Mary became upset when I told her. Mary got in the car and went back to Como with me to talk to police and to look for the baby. I carried Mary back home and let her out. I left Mary's and went and picked up my wife on the Clarence Taylor place and we drove back to Mary's house. I told Cordelia that someone had gotten Theresa out of my car. We drove back to Como and talked to the police and later returned to

 Mary's house. I had been under pressure from my wife about Theresa ever since we had been married. Every time Cordelia saw me talking to Mary or the child she would get mad and we would get into arguments. I knew we were moving up next to Mary and her mother and aunt. I figured it was going to be hard to live that close to all her folks and because of the child support money I was having to pay on the child. All other statements that I gave the law were made up stories.

 The state's case against Willie Frost rested entirely upon his second statement given to the sheriff's department. No other testimony was offered which would link him with the crime, other than the brief testimony by the child's mother that she had left the child with Frost. For that reason, the remaining facts of this case will be summarized through the testimony at the suppression hearing of Sheriff Bryan, James Rudd, and the four lodge brothers who were present when Frost gave both statements. Sheriff Bryan testified in chambers that, when Frost gave his first statement on December 27, Robert Gibson, Thomas Morman, Felix Webb and Earnest Jackson were present. He testified that James Rudd was also present. According to Bryan, Frost did not initially want to sign the waiver of his rights, but he eventually did sign it at one time, and signed the statement at a different time. After the statement was given, Sheriff ...


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