DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/28/2012
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WALTHALL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. DAVID H. STRONG JR.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER GEORGE T. HOLMES PHILLIP W. BROADHEAD
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD DISTRICT ATTORNEY: DEE BATES
BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND MAXWELL, JJ.
¶1. Robert Silvia was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Silvia was also ordered to pay a $10, 000 fine and $6, 500 in restitution to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund. Upon denial of his post-trial motions, Silvia filed an appeal, asserting the trial court erred by: (1) denying his motion to suppress; (2) failing to conduct a competency hearing; and (3) failing to grant his motion for a directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict. We consider Silvia's second issue, the lack of a competency hearing, to be dispositive in this case. Since we reverse and remand for a new trial based on the competency issue, we need not address his other two issues on appeal.
¶2. On June 10, 2010, Mandy Barthelot informed the Walthall County Sheriff's Department that she was concerned about her mother, Darlene Barthelot. Mandy, who lived in Louisiana, had not heard from Darlene, and her attempts to reach her mother through Silvia, Darlene's boyfriend of seventeen years,  had been unsuccessful. Mandy said Silvia would give her varying excuses as to why Darlene was unavailable.
¶3. Deputy Billy Wayne Thornhill reported to Darlene and Silvia's home in Jayess, Mississippi. Gavin Fulkerson, a neighbor, informed Deputy Thornhill that he had not seen Darlene in several days, and Silvia had told him and Mandy conflicting stories as to Darlene's whereabouts. Fulkerson told Deputy Thornhill that Silvia had been upset and crying over his recent separation from Darlene. Fulkerson also said Silvia had recently lost his job. Fulkerson testified that when Mandy told Silvia she was calling the police, Silvia left his house in a hurry, driving a small red car. Deputy Thornhill also spoke on the phone with a coworker of Darlene, who indicated she had not been to work in several days, and it was unusual for her to miss work.
¶4. After knocking on the door and receiving no response, Deputy Thornhill walked around the house and knocked on the windows. Deputy Thornhill testified he thought someone was in the house because he heard a noise from inside and saw a white car parked next to the house. Based upon Mandy's and Fulkerson's concerns and the fact that Darlene had missed work for several days, Deputy Thornhill contacted Toney Rushing, an investigator, to get permission to enter the house. Deputy Thornhill then entered the house to search for Darlene. Deputy Thornhill eventually located Darlene's body inside a large deep freezer in the kitchen. Darlene's body was covered with a comforter and packs of frozen food. Deputy Thornhill lifted the corner of the comforter and saw long dark-colored hair and a human shoulder. Deputy Thornhill testified he then replaced the comforter, contacted Investigator Rushing, and secured the crime scene. A search warrant for Silvia's house was subsequently obtained.
¶5. An alert was issued regarding Silvia's car. Deputy Hollis Gatlin testified he stopped Silvia's car and, as Silvia exited the car, Silvia "told me he had done something really bad, and that he had lost his job, and his wife was going to leave him, so he shot her." Silvia was transported to the sheriff's department. Because Silvia was intoxicated when he was arrested, he was not interviewed until the next day, June 11, 2010. Silvia waived his Miranda rights, then admitted that he shot Darlene.
¶6. At trial, Silvia admitted to shooting Darlene; however, he testified he did not remember pulling the trigger. Silvia testified he and Darlene had been experiencing financial trouble since he lost his job and emotional stress since Darlene's daughter died in a car accident. Darlene had wanted to separate, suggesting they foreclose on their home and sell their belongings. Silvia said Darlene offered him $1, 000 to go home to Massachusetts. He testified that this occurred approximately two days prior to Darlene's death. Silvia admittedly became angry and began drinking more heavily, stating the anger kept building and building inside of him. Silvia was also angry that Darlene had been in communication with her ex-husband concerning her daughter's death and insurance policy.
¶7. When questioned about the actual shooting, Silvia testified that he was sitting in the living room with Darlene, and the next thing he remembered, he was standing in the doorway holding a shotgun and Darlene was dead. He stated he had no memory of shooting her. Darlene had been shot once in the neck and once in the abdomen. Silvia said he covered her body with a comforter, then went to sleep. The next day, Silvia moved Darlene's body to the deep freezer, then attempted to clean the crime scene, including one of the couple's dogs that had blood on it. Silvia ...