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State v. Greenslit

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

March 11, 2016

State
v.
Donald Greenslit

          (P1/12-1092ADV).

         For State: Lauren S. Zurier, Department of Attorney General.

         For Defendant: Jodi M. Gladstone, Esq.

         Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 1193

         William P. Robinson III, Justice

         The defendant, Donald Greenslit, appeals from a judgment of conviction rendered after a jury trial held in the Providence County Superior Court on

Page 1194

the following counts: Count One, the first-degree murder of Stacie Dorego, in violation of G.L. 1956 § § 11-23-1, 11-23-2, and G.L. 1956 § 12-29-5; Count Two, the failure to report the death of Stacie Dorego with the intention of concealing a crime, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 23-4-7(f); Count Three, the obstruction of a firefighter while in the execution of his duty, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-32-1; and Count Four, the violation of a no-contact order, in violation of § § 12-29-4 and 12-29-5. On appeal to this Court, the defendant contends that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a new trial.

         For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         On March 29, 2012, a Providence County grand jury indicted defendant on the above-referenced charges of which he was eventually convicted. A jury trial was held over two weeks in March of 2013. We summarize below the salient aspects of that trial.

         A

         The Testimony of Jami Ouellette

         Jami Ouellette, the sister of the murder victim, Stacie Dorego, testified that, in 2012, Ms. Dorego lived at 16 Pershing Road in Johnston. Ms. Ouellette further testified that she spoke to defendant when he telephoned her a few weeks before Ms. Dorego's death. She stated that, at the time of that phone call, it had been " rare" for him to call her; she said that he did so approximately once every four months. She testified that defendant told her that he was concerned about his children and that he was unable to enter the home where they resided because of a restraining order. She stated that it was " very difficult to understand" defendant in the course of that phone call; she added that defendant was " kind of going on and on, repeating himself." She further stated that she offered to call the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), but that defendant told her not to do so. Ms. Ouellette testified that defendant said that he could not contact DCYF, in spite of her suggestion that he do so. It was her further testimony that defendant told her " not to worry because [his] mom had money and was able to take care of the kids * * * and the kids would be fine."

         B

         The Testimony of Francis O'Brien

         Francis O'Brien, a friend of defendant, testified that, on the morning of January 22, 2012, defendant left him a " vague" message, indicating that he had the " best news in the world" for him and that he needed his help. Mr. O'Brien testified that he went to 16 Pershing Road, where defendant was at that time, and he observed that defendant was " very happy." He also stated that defendant told him that Ms. Dorego had " taken off with a boyfriend to an island * * *." He further stated that defendant discussed with him the possibility of his moving to the house at 16 Pershing Road.

         C

         The Testimony of Chiara Scarcella

         Chiara Scarcella testified that she lived at 14 Pershing Road--i.e., next door to 16 Pershing Road. It was her testimony that it was not uncommon for defendant to come to her house and " ask to use things." She testified that, on January 22, 2012, defendant came to her house several times during the day.

Page 1195

          Ms. Scarcella testified that, upon returning home from doing an errand on the evening of January 22, she smelled smoke and saw that the kitchen of 16 Pershing Road was filled with smoke. She stated that she went into the 16 Pershing Road house because she knew that children were inside and she wanted them to get out. She stated that, once she was in the house, defendant told her that he was burning wood because the children were cold and that he had " everything under control." It was her testimony that defendant's demeanor was " odd" and " nervous" during their conversation; she added that he seemed " [a]ngry that [she] was in the house."

         Ms. Scarcella stated that she then left the 16 Pershing Road house and her cousin called the Fire Department. She testified that, when the police officers and firefighters arrived, defendant was " very mad" and said: " 'Why did you call the cops?'" She noted that he looked " panicked" and was pacing. She said that defendant told the firefighters that there were no children in the house, although she knew that two children were there. She stated that, when defendant was speaking to the firefighters about the children not being in the house, they were attempting to enter; she testified that defendant was blocking them with his body by standing in the middle of the doorway. She further testified that his blocking activity as he stood in the doorway prevented a ...


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