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McBeath v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 13, 2018

VICTOR L. MCBEATH A/K/A VICTOR MCBEATH APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/11/2017

          NESHOBA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CHRISTOPHER A. COLLINS TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: W. DANIEL HINCHCLIFF

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: LAURA HOGAN TEDDER

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: STEVEN SIMEON KILGORE

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., WILSON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. Following a jury trial in the Neshoba County Circuit Court, Victor McBeath was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree arson. On appeal, McBeath argues that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate or present an insanity defense and by failing to object to certain opinion testimony from law enforcement officers. We conclude that the present record is insufficient to address McBeath's claim. Therefore, we dismiss the claim without prejudice. McBeath may assert the claim in a properly filed motion for post-conviction relief. McBeath's convictions and sentences are affirmed.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On the evening of November 25, 2015, McBeath and his brother Demonta were "chilling" with some friends at a house in Walnut Grove. Between 9 and 10 p.m., McBeath drove back to his father's house in Neshoba County, where he and Demonta lived. Fifteen to thirty minutes later, Demonta did the same. When Demonta arrived home, McBeath was on the couch in the living room, where he usually slept. Demonta testified that McBeath was "acting delusional, psychotic, and he was talking out of his head." Demonta briefly talked to McBeath and then went to his bedroom, locked his door, and went to sleep. Demonta testified that when he went to bed, McBeath was still pacing in the living room and talking to himself. Their father, Ozie, was already asleep in his bedroom.

         ¶3. Around 3:30 or 4 a.m., Demonta awoke to a gunshot and a scream. He jumped out of bed and ran into the hallway. He then saw McBeath walking toward him with a shotgun. McBeath did not say anything at first, but he seemed "angry"-"[h]is eyes were bulged and he seemed dysfunctional." Demonta testified that McBeath then said to "get the baby," although there was no baby in the house. When McBeath pointed the gun at him, Demonta "tried to make a run for it." He knocked over a dresser, broke out a window, and tried to climb out. But McBeath still had the gun pointed at him. Demonta begged McBeath not to shoot him. When McBeath paused briefly, Demonta charged at him, knocked him down, and took the gun. Demonta asked McBeath what he had done, and McBeath said, "Monta, I'm sorry."

         ¶4. Demonta, now holding the shotgun, ran to Ozie's bedroom. He saw blood on a pillow but did not see Ozie, so he began searching other rooms. While Demonta looked for Ozie, McBeath found a rifle. Demonta and McBeath ran into each other outside Ozie's bedroom. Demonta hit McBeath with his shotgun, and a fight ensued. Demonta was able to take the rifle from McBeath, and he then continued his search for Ozie. Demonta finally found Ozie on a daybed in the living room. Ozie had been shot in the back of the head and appeared to be dead. Demonta then used a padlock to lock the shotgun and rifle in a bedroom, and he left the house in Ozie's Chevy Tahoe. As Demonta drove away, McBeath was pacing in the yard and still "talking out of his head."

         ¶5. Neshoba County deputy sheriffs Colby Clay and Greg Tubby went to the house to investigate. Clay knew McBeath because he had been called to the house several times on "disturbance calls" involving McBeath and Ozie. Clay and Tubby initially knocked on the door and waited, but after they saw fire coming out of a window, they kicked open the front door and entered the house. Once inside, they saw Ozie on the daybed. They tried to look for others, but there was too much smoke, so Tubby retrieved a fire extinguisher from their car and used it to put out the fire. Clay found a space heater in the dining room near the spot where the fire appeared to have started. Clay testified that he did not smell any accelerants at the time.

         ¶6. Clay and Tubby then moved to the backyard. There was a tree line fifty feet or so behind the house, and Clay shined his flashlight into the trees and called, "Victor, come out." After he called two or three times, McBeath responded, "Mr. Clay, I'm coming out." McBeath then came out of the trees, and Clay handcuffed and arrested him. Clay testified that McBeath's "demeanor was a bit spacey." McBeath was responsive as long as Clay could keep "his attention," but he was also "mumbling" to himself incoherently. Clay testified that McBeath "was acting different" that night than during their prior encounters, but Clay did not smell any alcohol on McBeath. Clay said it was "possible" that McBeath was under the influence of drugs.

         ¶7. Investigator Ralph Sciple determined that Ozie was shot in his bedroom while still lying down in his bed and then dragged through the house to the daybed. Sciple found the rifle and shotgun, a Winchester, in a locked bedroom and a pistol under Ozie's pillow. Sciple, who was also the arson investigator for Neshoba County, examined the dining room and the space heater and determined that the fire was set intentionally because "[t]here was nothing else there that would . . . set it ...


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