THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF HAMPTON Wilford Taylor, Jr.,
Anthony J. Balady, Jr., Assistant Public Defender, for
L. Yates, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring,
Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges O'Brien, Russell and Retired Judge
Bumgardner [*] Argued at Norfolk, Virginia
G. RUSSELL, JR., JUDGE
John Melick was convicted in a bench trial of one count of
grand larceny in violation of Code § 18.2-95. On appeal,
he asserts that the trial court erred in the admission of
certain evidence and in finding the evidence sufficient to
support his conviction. For the reasons that follow, we
affirm the judgment of the trial court.
appeal, we will consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the Commonwealth, as it prevailed in the trial
court." Whitehurst v. Commonwealth, 63 Va.App.
132, 133, 754 S.E.2d 910, 910 (2014). This principle requires
us to "discard the evidence of the accused in conflict
with that of the Commonwealth, and regard as true all the
credible evidence favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair
inferences to be drawn therefrom." Parks v.
Commonwealth, 221 Va. 492, 498, 270 S.E.2d 755, 759
(1980) (emphasis and internal quotation marks omitted).
viewed, the evidence established that, in the fall of 2015,
Mary Neal hired a home improvement company to perform repairs
at her home, which is located in the Buckroe section of
Hampton. Workers for the company spent approximately five
months working on various projects at the home. One of the
workers was Melick.
February of 2016, Melick contacted Neal. He told her that he
was losing his home and would be forced to live on the
street. He asked if he could stay at Neal's home.
some initial resistance to the idea, Neal eventually agreed
to allow Melick to stay at her house. Melick was to pay $100
a week in rent and to cover his own expenses, such as paying
for his own groceries. By August, Melick had fallen behind
regarding his rent payments and had not been covering his
expenses. He left the residence in mid-August.
Melick lived in her home, Neal was a field biologist for the
City of Newport News. Because her job required her to work
outdoors, she did not "have the opportunity to wear
[her] good jewelry on [the] job." On September 6,
however, she had an interview for a new position with the
city. In dressing for the interview, she went to the armoire
where she kept her "good jewelry."
Neal opened the armoire, she discovered that many pieces of
her jewelry were missing. At trial, she described various
pieces of jewelry that were missing, the majority of which
consisted of sterling silver pieces that had been signed by
the designer. She testified that the missing jewelry was
worth far in excess of $200 and that Melick did not have
permission to take any of it. During her testimony, photos of
Neal wearing some of the missing jewelry prior to it going
missing were introduced into evidence.
discovering the jewelry missing, Neal went to the Hampton
Roads Exchange, a business that both Neal and Melick
previously had patronized. The store was in the business of
purchasing items of personal property, such as jewelry, for
store, Neal identified some of her missing jewelry, which she
characterized as "insignificant trinkets." When she
informed the store that the items had been stolen from her,
the identified items were released to her.
then contacted the police. She also engaged the services of
Ronald Fino, a "friend of a friend," who is a
private investigator. On September 14, 2016, Fino contacted
Melick and arranged to return some clothing that Melick had
left when he moved out of Neal's home. While returning
the clothing, Fino engaged Melick in conversation. According
to Fino, Melick admitted to taking the missing jewelry, but
stated that "it was owed to him." Fino asked Melick
if he had "pawned" the jewelry. Melick responded
that he had done so, but he would not tell Fino where.
Worth and Kenny Cantrell, the owners of the Hampton Roads
Exchange, testified at trial regarding the store's
operations. The store was open Monday through Saturday, with
one of the two owners working in the store every day. When a
seller came in with jewelry, a representative of the store
made a determination as to what the item was made of and what
it was worth. Depending on the evaluation, the store might
offer to purchase the item.
potential seller accepted the store's offer, a store
representative would ask the seller for photo identification,
such as a driver's license. The representative would make
a copy of the identification, prepare paperwork related to
the transaction (including recording information about the
seller), and take pictures of the items. Within a few days
all of the information collected, including copies of the
identification and the pictures of the item(s) the store had
purchased, as well as descriptions of the item(s) purchased
and the seller, would be uploaded by either Cantrell, Worth,
or one of their wives, onto the website LeadsOnline.com
("LeadsOnline"). The uploaded information to
LeadsOnline also includes information regarding the date and
time of the transaction; a typewritten entry listing the
seller's address, date of birth, identification number,
and telephone number; and the identity of who conducted the
transaction on behalf of the store. Cantrell testified that
collecting and uploading this information is
"required," is done for every transaction, and is
done in the ordinary course of the store's
detective George Barker was assigned to investigate the
jewelry theft. He became aware of the items sold by appellant
through LeadsOnline. He explained that LeadsOnline is an
internet service based in Texas that allows pawn shops,
second-hand stores, and scrap and precious metal dealers to
upload records regarding what they acquire for resale. Agents
of the businesses upload information into the system at no
charge to the business. LeadsOnline then enters into
agreements with law enforcement agencies that allow the
agencies to access the uploaded information for investigative
purposes. The City of Hampton has such an agreement with
LeadsOnline for police officers to access the information.
speaking with Neal, Barker conducted a search of LeadsOnline
using Melick's name. The search produced documents
regarding nine transactions at the Hampton Roads Exchange
between April and June 2016. Each of the documents contained
the information that Cantrell had testified an agent of the
store was required to collect at the time of the transaction.
This included a description of Melick as the seller, a copy
of his driver's license, a description of the jewelry,
and a picture of each item of jewelry the store had
purchased. Some of the printouts, marked as
Commonwealth's Exhibit 3, identified the store clerk who
purchased the items as Ken; the remainder, marked as
Commonwealth's Exhibit 4, identified the store clerk who
had purchased the items as John. Barker testified that, as
the end user, he only could print the documents from the
website; he did not have the ability to alter them.
Commonwealth showed the LeadsOnline printouts to Worth and
Cantrell during their testimony. Although neither remembered
the specific transactions reflected in the documents, they
were able to identify the documents as being downloaded from
LeadsOnline. Cantrell testified that the documents were the
result of the information collection and uploading process
that Cantrell and later Worth testified was required to be
done for every purchase at the store.
Commonwealth moved for the admission of Exhibits 3 and 4 into
evidence. Melick objected on hearsay grounds. The
Commonwealth argued that the documents fell within the
business records exception to the hearsay rule. The trial
court, agreeing that the documents fell within the business
records exception, admitted the documents into evidence.
the documents had been admitted into evidence, the
Commonwealth recalled Neal as a witness. At that time, Neal
confirmed that the items pictured in the documents were
pieces of her jewelry that had gone missing. The Commonwealth
then rested its case.
moved to strike the Commonwealth's evidence, arguing that
the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for
grand larceny. The trial court denied the motion. Melick
elected not to put on any evidence, rested his case, and
renewed his motion to strike. The trial court again denied
the motion and, after hearing closing arguments, found Melick
guilty of grand larceny.
now appeals his conviction, asserting that the trial court
erred in two respects. First, he argues that the trial court
erred by admitting into evidence the printouts from
LeadsOnline because the documents constituted hearsay and did
not fall within the business records exception. Next, he
asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his
conviction for grand larceny.