THE CIRCUIT COURT OF STAFFORD COUNTY MICHAEL E. LEVY, JUDGE.
M. Parrett (Sharon A. Fitzgerald; Williams Stone Carpenter
Buczek, PC; Sharon A. Fitzgerald, LLC, on brief), for
M. Bulger, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring,
Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Huff, O'Brien and Senior Judge Haley
Argued at Fredericksburg, Virginia
W. HALEY, JR. JUDGE.
jury trial, Christopher Michael Ellis (appellant) pleaded not
guilty by reason of insanity to charges of first-degree
murder, aggravated malicious wounding, and assault and
battery of a police officer. The jury convicted appellant for
all three charges. The jury recommended a sentence of life
imprisonment and a $100, 000 fine for both first-degree
murder and aggravated malicious wounding, and five years of
imprisonment for assault and battery upon a police officer.
The trial court imposed the sentences recommended by the
jury. On appeal, appellant challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence to sustain his conviction for aggravated malicious
wounding. Appellant argues that the evidence did not prove
the injuries inflicted upon Elizabeth Ellis, appellant's
mother, were "permanent and significant," as
required by Code § 18.2-51.2(A). Finding no error, we
affirm appellant's conviction for aggravated malicious
general, when reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence to support a conviction, an appellate court
considers the evidence in the light most favorable to the
Commonwealth, the prevailing party below, and reverses the
judgment of the trial court only when its decision is plainly
wrong or without evidence to support it." Marshall
v. Commonwealth, 69 Va.App. 648, 652-53 (2019). "If
there is evidentiary support for the conviction, 'the
reviewing court is not permitted to substitute its own
judgment, even if its opinion might differ from the
conclusions reached by the finder of fact at the
trial.'" Chavez v. Commonwealth, 69 Va.App.
149, 161 (2018) (quoting Banks v. Commonwealth, 67
Va.App. 273, 288 (2017)). "In accordance with familiar
principles of appellate review, the facts will be stated in
the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing
party at trial." Gerald v. Commonwealth, 295
Va. 469, 472 (2018) (quoting Scott v. Commonwealth,
292 Va. 380, 381 (2016)).
December 11, 2015, appellant resided in the basement of
Ellis' home at 532 Fagan Drive in Stafford County.
Appellant had lived there since July of 2011. Appellant was
unemployed and received disability benefits.
about 5:10 a.m. on December 11, 2015, Sergeant Christian
Mireles and Deputy Gregory Gabrielli responded to a report of
a person screaming outside in the area of Fagan Drive and
Butler Road. When he arrived at the location, Mireles did not
find anyone screaming or in distress. However, Mireles looked
behind the house at 532 Fagan Drive and saw appellant.
Appellant was crouched down, and he was rocking back and
forth. He was covered in blood. Mireles asked if appellant
was all right. Appellant murmured a response, stood up, and
punched Mireles in the face. During the fistfight that
followed, appellant struck the officer in the face several
times. Gabrielli joined the fray, and eventually the officers
subdued appellant. After the police had detained and
handcuffed him, appellant made rambling statements that he
had hit and kicked his mother and that she was dead upstairs.
Appellant also appeared to be praying in a foreign language.
for anyone who might need assistance, Gabrielli entered the
house, and Mireles stayed outside with appellant. Gabrielli
proceeded through the open sliding glass door to the basement
and upstairs to the main level of the house. When Gabrielli
reached the master bedroom at the end of the hallway, he saw
a large amount of blood on the floor, walls, and closet door.
Gabrielli found Ellis' dead body on the floor of the
bedroom. The lower portion of Ellis' face was missing,
and a hammer was sticking out of her throat. Ellis'
nightgown had been pushed up over her waistline.
police transported appellant to the sheriff's department
and interviewed him over the course of about two and one-half
hours. During the interview, appellant repeatedly admitted
that he had killed Ellis. Appellant said that at about 5:00
a.m. he had gone to Ellis' bedroom, "hovered"
over her bed for about twenty seconds, and yelled at her
about taking his disability money. He climbed on the bed and,
using both hands, punched Ellis in the face multiple times.
Appellant turned on the light so that he could "see the
look on her face." Appellant suffocated Ellis with his
hand and licked her nostrils. Ellis was still alive, and she
was begging for him to stop, although, appellant said, she
was "basically dead." Ellis was still screaming for
dragged Ellis off the bed to the floor. Appellant jumped onto
Ellis' chest with his knees twice and "busted her
chest." After he "broke her chest," Ellis was
no longer communicating. Appellant decided that he
"wasn't done," so he kicked her in the head
"a bunch of times." Appellant said he used his
right foot, and confirmed that that was "where all that
blood [came] from."
the injuries he had already inflicted upon Ellis, appellant
"didn't think she was dead yet." He
"wanted to make sure she was dead, so [he] went and got
the hammer" to "break her brain open."
Appellant left the bedroom, went down the hallway to ...