Submitted on June 4, 2010.
Opinion Delivered July 21, 2010. DO NOT PUBLISH.
On Appeal from the County Court at Law, Orange County, Texas, Trial Cause No. C97776.
Before GAULTNEY, KREGER, and HORTON, JJ.
A jury convicted Stephen Allen Wilcox of the Class A misdemeanor offense of abuse of a corpse and assessed a punishment of one year in the county jail and a $4,000 fine. A person commits the offense of abuse of a corpse if the person, without legal authority, knowingly carries away a human corpse. TEX. PEN. CODE ANN. § 42.08(a)(1) (Vernon Supp. 2009). Wilcox argues the evidence is both legally and factually insufficient to support his conviction. Wilcox challenges whether the evidence established Bryan Chesser was dead at the time Wilcox put Chesser into Chesser's vehicle, transported him to another location, and left him. Because the evidence is sufficient to establish Chesser was dead at that time, we affirm the judgment. In reviewing a legal sufficiency point, the appellate court considers all the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Hooper v. State, 214 S.W.3d 9, 13 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)). Under the Jackson standard, the reviewing court gives full play to the jury's responsibility to fairly resolve conflicts in the evidence, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts. Hooper, 214 S.W.3d at 13. In reviewing a factual sufficiency issue, the appellate court considers all the evidence in a neutral light and asks whether the evidence introduced to support the verdict, though legally sufficient, is nevertheless so weak or so against the great weight of conflicting evidence as to render the jury's verdict clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. Gamboa v. State, 296 S.W.3d 574, 579 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). Even though a factual sufficiency review in a criminal case permits an appellate court, to a very limited degree, to act as a "thirteenth juror," the reviewing court must nonetheless give the jury's verdict a great degree of deference. Steadman v State, 280 S.W.3d 242, 246 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). Sergeant Bobby Smith of the Texas Rangers testified deputies discovered the body of Bryan Chesser lying face down on the back seat of his vehicle, which was parked alongside a road. Chesser's leg was "bent, arms down by his side, and a black Bible was laying on his back." A tip ultimately led police to Wilcox. Wilcox met with Sergeant Smith and voluntarily gave an interview. Smith testified to Wilcox's account of the events surrounding Chesser's death. Chesser, a friend of Wilcox, came over to Wilcox's home one afternoon to ask Wilcox to relay a message to Wilcox's nephew. The record reveals that Wilcox, Wilcox's wife, Wilcox's child, Eddie Jeanise, Missy Boudreaux, David Bodin, and Chesser were at Wilcox's residence that evening. Wilcox and Chesser went to another house to buy Dilaudid pills and then returned to Wilcox's residence. Chesser took one of the pills. He later began having various physical problems and started choking on his vomit. Those at the house did not call 9-1-1, because there was a child in the house and they did not want law enforcement authorities to take the child away. Wilcox explained he did not want to be separated from his wife and child. Without objection, Smith testified Wilcox stated that at one point those in the residence thought Chesser "had come back around," but he "didn't make it . . . he had died there in that trailer." Smith explained that Wilcox told him that as far as Wilcox knew and believed, Chesser was dead prior to being moved. Wilcox and Jeanise loaded up Chesser's body in the back of his car, and Wilcox drove the vehicle away. He left the vehicle and Chesser in a place where Chesser would be found. Police later found the car with the body inside. On cross-examination, Sergeant Smith acknowledged that he is not a medical expert; he was not present when Chesser died; and he does not know if Chesser died at the scene or if he died somewhere else. Wilcox gave a sworn, written statement to Detective Jimmy LeBoeuf. In the written statement, Wilcox added the information that his wife noticed Chesser was not breathing, that she performed CPR on Chesser, that Eddie Jeanise stated Chesser was dead, and that Eddie threatened David with a knife when David objected to taking Chesser away. Eddie told Wilcox to put Chesser in Chesser's car, drive him somewhere, and drop him off. David was told to follow Wilcox. On this record, the jury could reasonably find that Chesser was dead before Wilcox put Chesser in the vehicle. Medical expert testimony was not necessary to establish the specific time of death. Wilcox told Sergeant Smith that Chesser died in Wilcox's home, and that information was reiterated in Wilcox's written statement. Sergeant Smith's description of the positioning of Chesser in the vehicle was consistent with Chesser's death having occurred before removal. Wilcox's statement described David's aversion to moving the body. On this record, the jury could reasonably conclude that Chesser was dead when Wilcox, without legal authority, moved and transported him to another location. The evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the verdict. Wilcox's issue is overruled. The judgment is affirmed. AFFIRMED.