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State v. McBride

July 31, 2003



A defendant has a right to challenge the introduction into evidence of property that was owned by a third party and was seized during a search of his residence.

The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that a search warrant authorizing police to search a residence for correspondence between two caregivers of children was supported by probable cause.

Error, if any, in the admission of a notebook seized during execution of a second search warrant would be harmless.

The evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury's verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree while committing criminal sexual conduct in the second degree where the evidence indicated that the victim had been fatally injured during one continuous transaction.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blatz, Chief Justice

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.


Appellant Steven Wayne McBride was convicted in Dakota County of first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct in the second degree for the death of Dillon Blocker. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, McBride alleges that his conviction should be reversed because the district court erred when it admitted a notebook into evidence having concluded that (1) the second search warrant for his residence was supported by probable cause and (2) McBride lacked standing to object to the search. McBride further asserts that the evidence supporting his conviction was insufficient. We affirm.

Denise Patch met McBride in February 2001. One month later, they leased a two-bedroom apartment in Lakeville. Patch had two children from a prior relationship – a daughter, B.D.B., born on April 25, 1996, and a son, Dillon Blocker, born on Septemberá26, 1997. When they met, Patch was working at B'Eagan With Us, a daycare center, and McBride was working at a Coca-Cola plant. Some time after they moved in together, McBride quit working.

Both Dillon and B.D.B. attended the daycare center where their mother worked, and Dillon took special speech classes through the Eagan school district. Beginning in May 2001, daycare personnel, Dillon's teacher, and the school nurse began questioning Patch about various bruises found on Dillon's buttocks, abdomen, and face. Patch told them that the bruises were from Dillon falling at daycare or while playing. One day in June, however, Patch came into the daycare center crying and told the employees that McBride was not allowed to pick up her children because he had spanked Dillon. Family members also noticed bruises on Dillon's body and saw McBride strike Dillon on several occasions. McBride's brother testified that he once witnessed McBride strike Dillon in the chest when he was crying and, at another time, saw him grab Dillon by the face to get his attention. Patch's nephew testified that on their way to Valleyfair Amusement Park, he witnessed McBride hit Dillon numerous times on the head to keep Dillon awake.

Beginning in the middle of July 2001, Dillon and B.D.B's attendance at daycare became sporadic. Patch testified that she started keeping Dillon home at that time because he had bruises. At the end of August, Patch quit her job at the daycare and started working nights at Target. Patch was six months pregnant with McBride's child at the time. While she was working at Target, Patch would leave the children in McBride's care. On one occasion, upon returning home from work, she noticed new bruises on Dillon's back and shoulders. On another occasion, she found bite marks on his wrists. When questioned by Patch, McBride said that the bruises on Dillon's back and shoulders were caused when Dillon fell and rolled under B.D.B.'s bike and that the bite marks on his wrists were from Dillon having bitten himself. Because Dillon continued to have bruises and she was afraid that child protection would take him away, Patch kept Dillon home more in September, declined a home visit by his new speech teacher, and fabricated excuses for why Dillon could not attend his speech classes the first two weeks in September.

On September 17, the day before Dillon died, Patch testified that she did not notice anything different about Dillon. He ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner and his appetite appeared normal. He spent the day playing with his toys, taking a nap, and watching videos. Patch testified that Dillon still had bruises on his cheeks and bite marks on his wrists. In the afternoon, Patch watched Dillon urinate in the toilet and she did not notice any injuries to his genitals or abdomen. At some point during the day, Dillon showed Patch that he had little bumps on his tongue, which Patch characterized as "sores." In response, McBride gave Dillon some medication and put Orajel, an oral topical medicine, on his tongue. Before going to work that night at 9:30 p.m. and leaving the children in McBride's care, Patch got the children ready for bed. When Patch left for work, Dillon was wearing a sweatshirt with a picture of a soccer ball on the front.

Sometime between 2:15 and 2:45 a.m., Patch received a phone call from McBride. McBride told Patch that Dillon had fallen in the bathroom, had hit his head and penis, and was crying. McBride asked Patch to come home. When Patch got home, she saw that Dillon had another mark on his face across his cheek and eyes, a red mark on his penis, and a scrape on his forehead. Patch also told police that Dillon was wearing a different shirt than he was wearing when she left for work. When putting ice on Dillon's head and penis, Patch noticed that his ability to speak was "different" and that he seemed to be having trouble breathing. Concerned, Patch called poison control to see if the Orajel that had been put on Dillon's tongue earlier could affect him this way. After poison control assured her that it should not be a problem, Patch repeatedly asked McBride if they should take Dillon to the doctor because she was concerned about his breathing and thought he may have a concussion from the bump on his head. McBride responded that Dillon would be fine until morning. Patch and McBride then took Dillon into the master bedroom and propped him up on pillows. While McBride lay on the bed with Dillon, Patch read a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) manual. Patch testified that while holding the telephone in her hand, she again asked McBride if they should call 911 and McBride told her to put the telephone down, that Dillon would be fine until the morning, and they could take him to the doctor then. Patch eventually fell asleep on the couch in the living room. When she woke in the morning, she went into the bedroom and found Dillon dead. Patch telephoned 911 while McBride carried Dillon to the living room. Patch tried CPR but it was to no avail.

At 7:01 a.m. on September 18, 2001, the Lakeville Police Department received the 911 call from Patch and two officers responded to the call. Upon entering the apartment, the officers saw Dillon lying on the living room loveseat and confirmed that he was dead. When asked what happened, McBride and Patch stated that sometime during the night a toilet seat had fallen on Dillon's penis which caused him to fall over and strike his head in the bathroom. Because of the visible physical trauma to Dillon and the implausibility of McBride and Patch's explanation, the officers decided an investigation was warranted.

Scientists from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) were called to the apartment to do a crime scene investigation. They found blood on the walls and doors of the master bedroom and bathroom and on a number of items in the bathroom. They also found a cloth belt from a bathrobe, still damp with blood and saliva, hidden behind some containers in the closet. The BCA took blood samples to perform DNA analysis and determined that the samples matched Dillon's DNA. The BCA also performed DNA analysis on various samples of saliva and determined that the saliva on the cloth belt and Dillon's fingers matched Dillon's DNA. The saliva around Dillon's lips, mouth, and cheek area contained a mixture of Dillon and Patch's DNA which was consistent with Patch trying to perform CPR on Dillon. One of the BCA scientists also performed measurements on the toilet. Based on his measurements, the scientist testified that Dillon would have had to be "almost on his knees or squatted way down before his penis would have been in the position for the [toilet] seat to possibly come in contact with it."

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist and Dakota County coroner who performed the autopsy, estimated that Dillon died around 5:00 a.m. on September 18, 2001. The autopsy revealed that Dillon had older injuries—one to four days old—to his large bowel and to his mesentery, the connecting tissue that holds the small bowel in the abdomen. Thomas also found fibrinous peritonitis*fn1 in Dillon's abdominal cavity, leading Thomas to believe that Dillon's small bowel also had previously been ruptured and its contents had leaked into his abdominal cavity. In addition to these older injuries, Thomas found that Dillon had recent injuries to his liver, pancreas, mesentery, and large and small bowels. These new injuries caused more of the small bowel contents to spill into Dillon's abdominal cavity, adding to the infection that had previously developed. In addition to the injuries to his abdomen, Thomas found that Dillon had both recent and older injuries to his head that caused bleeding on the surface of the brain and swelling of the brain. In Thomas' view, blows of significant force were needed to cause both the old and new injuries. Thomas testified that in her opinion, even though Dillon may have eventually died from the older injuries to his abdomen, the recent injuries to his head and abdomen directly contributed to his death.

Dr. Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist, testified for the defense. In Ophoven's opinion, Dillon died from complications from the older injuries to his abdomen that had resulted in peritonitis. She further testified that his head injuries were both older and insufficient to have caused his death.

In rebuttal, the state called two expert witnesses, Dr. Judson Reaney and Dr. Mitchel Morey. Reaney, a pediatrician who specialized in child abuse and neglect cases, agreed with Thomas that the recent injuries to Dillon's abdomen contributed to Dillon's death and testified that, in his opinion, Dillon would not have died that night absent the new injuries. Morey, an assistant medical examiner certified in neuropathology, testified that the injuries to Dillon's head occurred anywhere from a day before to just before Dillon's death.

In addition to the injuries to Dillon's head and abdomen, Thomas found that Dillon had numerous rib fractures in various stages of healing, recent lacerations and scrapes on his face and neck,*fn2 and bruises and bite marks of various ages all over his body. One of Dillon's front teeth had been knocked out and was found in his stomach during the autopsy, ...

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