[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the District Court for Webster County: STEPHEN R.
D. Brewster, of Anderson, Klein, Swan & Brewster, for
J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Nathan A. Liss for
C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MILLER-LERMAN, CASSEL, and STACY,
JJ., and RIEDMANN, Judge. MCCORMACK, J., not participating.
Neb. 43] Wright, J.
NATURE OF CASE
Casterline appeals from his convictions following a jury
trial for first degree murder, use of a deadly weapon to
commit a felony, and burglary. He claims the evidence was
insufficient to support his convictions for the first two
offenses. He also assigns that the district court erred in
admitting certain evidence and in including certain language
in its instructions to the jury. For the reasons set forth
below, we affirm.
moved to Guide Rock, Nebraska, with his mother, Shelley
Casterline (Shelley), who wanted to start a new life after
she was released from prison. Shelley had maintained an
" on again, off again" relationship with Ronald
Jamilowski, the father of her twin daughters. Casterline
lived with Shelley and Jamilowski for a few months, but then
moved into the house next door, which was another property
Jamilowski owned. Jamilowski's mother, Virginia Barone,
who was the victim, lived nearby.
relationship between Casterline, Shelley, Jamilowski, and
Barone was quite volatile. Although they saw each [293 Neb.
44] other daily, none of them got along very well. Shelley
and Jamilowski had tried to rekindle their relationship, but
they argued and got into physical altercations frequently,
due mostly to Jamilowski's drinking. Shelley and Barone
often fought about money and about Shelley's relationship
with Jamilowski, of which Barone apparently did not approve.
Casterline got into arguments with Shelley, and he was known
to have " hated" Jamilowski.
Events Surrounding Killing
the early evening on October 3, 2013, Casterline went to
Hastings, Nebraska, to run errands with his friend, Trevor
Marihugh, who lived across the street from Casterline,
Shelley, and Jamilowski. They took Marihugh's vehicle,
because Casterline's was not working. Both Casterline and
Marihugh were abusing prescription medications, and Marihugh
ended up getting arrested for driving under the influence.
Around 3 a.m. the next day, Casterline called Shelley and
said that he needed a ride home from Hastings because
Marihugh was in jail. Shelley woke up Jamilowski
and Barone, because Barone was the only one with a car, and
the three of them drove to Hastings to pick up Casterline. On
the way back to Guide Rock, Jamilowski and Casterline were
fistfighting in the back seat, while Shelley and Barone were
arguing in the front seat. Barone even pulled over at one
point and tried to throw Shelley out of the vehicle. They
continued to Guide Rock, and they all went to their
after 9 a.m., Casterline was seen using Barone's
automatic teller machine (ATM) card at a bank in Superior,
Nebraska. A bank employee testified that she went out to
service the ATM and observed a young man standing at the ATM
and an older white or light-colored vehicle parked close by.
She identified Casterline as the man at the ATM. She observed
a middle-aged woman sitting in the passenger seat, who was
later determined to be Shelley, and there were various things
in the back seat, including a guitar case. The bank employee
testified that it was very obvious that Casterline did [293
Neb. 45] not want her to see what he was doing. After about 5
minutes, the woman in the passenger seat got out and spoke to
Casterline, at which point they both got back into the
vehicle and drove away.
transaction history for Barone's account confirmed that
several transactions occurred on Barone's account on the
morning of October 4, 2013. A " debit balance
inquiry" occurred at 9:18 a.m., followed by a withdrawal
of $500 at 9:19 a.m. There were several more attempted
withdrawals over the next couple of minutes, but those
attempts were denied due to the $500 daily ATM withdrawal
limit. The bank employee explained that in order to withdraw
cash from an ATM using a debit card, one must have the
personal identification number (PIN) for that card, which is
selected by the card owner and is not retained by the bank.
In the event a customer loses his or her PIN, the card must
be canceled and a new card must be ordered, because it is not
possible for the bank to retrieve a PIN; that information is
destroyed as soon as the card is created.
that day, Casterline and Shelley stopped at various places to
get more money--including the Wal-Mart stores in Hastings;
Grand Island, Nebraska; and York, Nebraska--where they used
Barone's debit card to make numerous small purchases and
got large sums of cash back with each purchase. Between their
purchases and withdrawals, Casterline and Shelley stole more
than $2,000 from Barone, which nearly emptied her bank
account. At approximately 1:30 p.m., they stopped at a pawn
shop in Grand Island and sold several things, including a
television, a video game system with 13 games, and an
amplifier for a guitar, for which they received a total of
traveling in Barone's vehicle on Interstate 80 near
Plattsmouth, Nebraska, Casterline and Shelley were stopped
about 7:40 p.m. for a traffic violation. The officer who made
the stop testified that Casterline appeared to be under the
influence of prescription drugs. He observed that
Casterline's nails were dirty and he had several nicks
and cuts on his hands. Casterline told the officer that the
vehicle belonged to his [293 Neb. 46] grandmother and that
she was letting him borrow it to go to his grandfather's
funeral in Pennsylvania. Casterline was arrested for driving
under the influence and taken to the Plattsmouth jail.
Shelley was released, but Barone's vehicle was impounded
because Shelley did not have a valid driver's license.
approximately 9:30 p.m., Marihugh returned home to Guide Rock
and discovered that his house had been burglarized. Several
things were missing, including his television, his video game
system with several
games, two laptop computers, two guitars, and an amplifier.
He reported the burglary to law enforcement, who discovered
that some of the items stolen from his house had been sold to
a pawn shop in Grand Island by Casterline and Shelley.
Marihugh testified that he did not give Casterline or Shelley
permission to go into his house and take any items.
next morning, law enforcement received a telephone call from
one of Barone's neighbors requesting a welfare check at
Barone's house. A sheriff's deputy entered the home
with the neighbor and found that several pieces of furniture
had been knocked over. The officer followed a trail of blood
to a back room and found Barone dead under a pile of boards.
Barone had sustained multiple stab wounds and several cuts on
her fingers, which appeared to be defensive wounds from
trying to block a sharp object. She had some small drops of
blood on her face, which suggested that she may have been
breathing for some time after she was stabbed and had
breathed out blood.
observed a bloodstain on a rug in the living room, a shoe in
the living room with blood on it, blood smears which appeared
to be drag marks leading from the living room to the room
where Barone's body was found, and drops of blood on the
porch area outside the front door. The telephone appeared to
have been ripped out of the wall, and a number of things were
lying in the driveway where Barone normally parked her
vehicle. Investigators found no financial devices in
Barone's purse, and her vehicle, a white 1995 Pontiac,
Neb. 47] During the investigation, Jamilowski arrived at
Barone's house and was detained for questioning. After
speaking with Jamilowski, law enforcement officers identified
Casterline and Shelley as suspects in Barone's death.
They learned that Casterline had been arrested the night
before in Cass County while driving Barone's vehicle, but
had since been released, and that he and Shelley were
believed to be heading east through Iowa in a stolen Jeep.
Police were able to track Shelley's cell phone to a
location near Newton, Iowa. Authorities in Iowa were notified
and performed a traffic stop on the stolen Jeep, and
identified the occupants as Casterline and Shelley.
searching Casterline, officers located $322 cash, several
Wal-Mart and ATM receipts, and Barone's debit card.
Shelley had over $2,000 in her purse. A search of the Jeep
revealed a bag with Marihugh's name on it, two laptop
computers, and a knife with a 4-inch blade inside the
glovebox. The owner of the Jeep testified that none of those
items were in the Jeep when it was stolen from a parking lot
in Plattsmouth the day before.
and Shelley were arrested and taken to a detention center in
Iowa. At the time of booking, officers observed various
injuries. Shelley had a bruise on her right arm and some
small scrapes on her right wrist and index finger. Casterline
had a bruise above his eye, cuts on the thumb and fingers of
his right hand, an abrasion on his left forearm, and dried
blood on his right palm. Officers collected DNA samples and
fingernail scrapings from Casterline and Shelley and
collected the clothing that they were wearing. Casterline was
reluctant to give the officers his clothing.
and Shelley were interviewed by investigators the following
day. Shelley initially denied having anything to do with
Barone's death, but later admitted to killing Barone. She
claimed Casterline had nothing to do with it. Shelley told
investigators that when they got back from Hastings, she and
Casterline went to Barone's
house and the three of them [293 Neb. 48] argued. Barone was
blaming Shelley for Jamilowski's problems, at which point
Casterline told Barone to shut up or he would knock her out.
stated that she grabbed a knife and began stabbing Barone,
then dragged Barone into another room and covered her body
with boards. She said that Casterline was there when she
killed Barone but that he had nothing to do with the killing.
However, she acknowledged that she was taking blame for the
murder in order to " save [Casterline's] life."
Casterline was interviewed, he claimed that he and Shelley
had nothing to do with Barone's death and that he had no
idea Barone was dead. He later admitted that he was at
Barone's house when Barone and Shelley got into an
argument, but claimed that he went home during the argument
and did not know how Barone died. Later during the interview,
however, Shelley began screaming from another room that she
killed Barone, at which point Casterline stated that Shelley
did it but maintained that he had nothing to do with
performed DNA testing on the knife found in the Jeep and the
clothing that Casterline and Shelley were wearing when they
were apprehended. They compared those results to known DNA
samples from Casterline, Shelley, Barone, Jamilowski, and
Marihugh. They located DNA on the blade of the knife and on
three pieces of clothing: Casterline's jeans,
Casterline's shoe, and Barone's sweatpants. The DNA
on the knife was a mixture of two individuals, with
Casterline being the major contributor and everyone except
Shelley being excluded as the minor contributor. The DNA on
Casterline's jeans tested positive for blood and was a
mixture of two contributors, with Barone being the major
contributor and everyone except Casterline being excluded as
the minor contributor. The DNA on Casterline's shoe also
tested positive for blood and matched the DNA profile of
Barone only. The DNA on Barone's sweatpants was
inconclusive as to the major contributor, but everyone except
Casterline, Shelley, and Barone being excluded as a minor
Neb. 49] The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy
concluded that Barone's death was a homicide. The autopsy
revealed that Barone sustained 22 stab wounds, which varied
from 1/2 to 8 1/2 inches in depth. The angle of the stab
wounds also varied. Seven of the wounds were inflicted at a
downward trajectory, and 13 were inflicted at an upward
trajectory. The pathologist testified that more than one
knife may have been used to stab Barone, although she could
not confirm whether that was actually the case. She explained
that it is possible for a knife to inflict wounds deeper than
its blade length, due to the way the body reacts when it is
punctured. She concluded that the cause of Barone's death
was stab wounds to the chest, upper arm, and abdomen, which
caused her to bleed out and die from loss of blood.
testified for the defense. She testified that she alone
killed Barone and that Casterline had nothing to do with it.
She explained that shortly after they arrived home from
Hastings, she walked to Barone's house with the intention
of retrieving her cell phone, which she had left in
Barone's car. She and Barone got into an intense argument
that was about to turn physical, when Casterline entered the
house looking for Shelley. Shelley told Casterline to get out
of the ...