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Fields v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 7, 2017

STEPHANIE FIELDS APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/15/2015

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WINSTON L. KIDD

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: STEPHANIE FIELDS (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: BARBARA WAKELAND BYRD

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. Stephanie Fields pled guilty to and was sentenced on eighteen counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, accessory after the fact to culpable negligence manslaughter, felony identity theft, and three counts of felony use of a Social Security number. All charges were related to Fields's operation of an unlicensed personal care home. Almost four years later, Fields filed a motion for post-conviction relief (PCR), which the circuit court summarily dismissed. We affirm because Fields's claims do not satisfy any exception to the three-year statute of limitations of the Uniform Post-Conviction Collateral Relief Act (UPCCRA).

         FACTS

         ¶2. In January 2010, in Cause No. 10-42, a Hinds County grand jury indicted Fields on one count of felony identity theft, Miss. Code Ann. § 97-45-19 (Rev. 2006); three counts of felony use of a Social Security number, id. § 97-19-85; one count of attempted felony use of a Social Security number; three counts of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult, Miss. Code Ann. § 43-47-19(b) (Rev. 2004); and one count of attempted felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The various offenses were alleged to have been committed between dates in 2007 and 2009, all against the same victim, Troy Stingley, a man then in his late eighties.

         ¶3. In April 2010, a Hinds County grand jury returned separate indictments charging Fields with accessory after the fact to culpable negligence manslaughter in the January 2010 death of Janice Hollins (Cause No. 10-470) and fifteen additional counts of felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult (Cause No. 10-471). Stingley, Hollins, and the alleged victims in Cause No. 10-471 were all living in an unlicensed personal care home operated by Fields in the City of Jackson. The counts in Cause No. 10-471 all alleged that Fields accepted payments as compensation for the victims' care but failed to provide adequate shelter, food, water, or heat for them.[1]

         ¶4. In November 2011, Fields pled guilty to all charges in the three indictments except for the two attempt charges in Cause No. 10-42, which were dismissed. At her plea hearing, the State provided a factual basis for all charges. In Cause No. 10-42, Fields used Stingley's Social Security number to obtain a credit card, which she used to make purchases in excess of $8, 000. In Cause No. 10-470, Hollins died of hypothermia around January 2, 2010, after Eugenia Johnson, a woman who worked for Fields as a "caretaker, " threw water on Hollins and left her to sleep overnight in a room with a broken window. When Hollins was found dead the next morning, Fields and Johnson removed Hollins's wet clothes, moved her body and relocated the other residents of the home, and waited over twenty-four hours to notify law enforcement. In Cause No. 10-471, Fields admitted that she accepted compensation for the care of residents of the home without providing adequate shelter, food, water, or heat.

         ¶5. Fields testified that she and her attorney had discussed her petition to plead guilty prior to the hearing, that she understood the charges against her, that no promises had been made to induce her plea, and that she was satisfied with her attorney. She admitted that she had committed the crimes and described to the court some of the circumstances giving rise to the charges. The circuit court explained the applicable maximum and minimum sentences for each charge and accepted her plea as knowingly and intelligently entered.

         ¶6. Fields was sentenced in December 2011. Representatives from the Mississippi Department of Health and the Attorney General's Office testified at the sentencing hearing concerning conditions they observed when they investigated the subject home. The Department of Health had previously ordered Fields to cease and desist from operating a different unlicensed personal care home, but Fields did not comply with the order.

         ¶7. There were fifteen residents living in the subject home on February 9, 2010. Although the home had four bedrooms and two bathrooms, one bedroom and one bathroom appeared to be reserved for the exclusive use of the "caretaker, " Johnson, who had mental health issues of her own. The other three bedrooms had seven beds and two additional mattresses ...


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