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Eyewitness testimony, fingerprints supported convictions.

Byline: Virginia Lawyers Weekly

Where the commonwealth provided eyewitness testimony and fingerprints as evidence, the defendant's convictions for burglary, conspiracy and larceny were affirmed.


Cobb testified that, while she was walking home from school, she saw a man carrying a "box full of stuff" out from the home of a neighbor (C. Bare), and put it in the trunk of a silver Buick. Cobb's neighbor (Fry) testified that when Cobb informed her of the suspicious activity, Fry took a picture of the Buick's license plate, which was entered into evidence at trial.

Bare testified that when he left for work earlier that same morning, his house was secured. When he returned home, Bare found his gun safe pried open and the guns and ammunition stolen. Additionally, the burglars took Bare's other personal property, including a piece of Pittsburgh Steelers jewelry and other costume jewelry that was found in the silver Buick later that day.

Blanco, a homeowner in a nearby neighborhood, testified that when he returned home, he found his back door had been kicked open his house was in disarray. Missing from Blanco's home were at least two bottles of medication and a handgun.

Soon after police were called about the burglary at Bare's home, Officer Eavey saw a silver Buick pass "right in front of [him]" at a stoplight and saw two people in the car. When they saw Officer Eavey they fled. However, Officer Eavey was able to see them for 10-15 seconds and positively identified Speller as one of the fleeing burglars.

A forensic specialist with the Virginia Beach Police Department examined the silver Buick and its contents for fingerprints. The officer was able to obtain one latent print that was identified as coming from Speller's left ring finger. Additionally, among other items of their property, both Blanco's and Bare's prescription medications were found in the car.

A judge sitting without a jury found Speller guilty of two counts of burglary, two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and two counts of larceny of a firearm.


Speller argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he burglarized either Blanco's or Bare's home because there was insufficient evidence that he broke into or entered the homes. We disagree. Both Blanco and Bare testified that, when they left their homes, they were locked and secure. Both testified that, when they returned home, they found their locks had been broken. Additionally, police found multiple items of Bare's and Blanco's property in the silver Buick, including firearms, ammunition, jewelry and medication. Accordingly, it was reasonable for the fact finder to conclude that Speller and his cohorts broke and entered Blanco's and Bare's house and entered with the intent to commit larceny.

Speller also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of conspiracy to commit burglary of Blanco's property. It is reasonable to conclude that because Speller conspired to commit a burglary on Bare's property, he conspired to commit a burglary on Blanco's property. The commonwealth need not present direct evidence of an agreement in order to obtain a conviction for conspiracy. The trial court was not plainly wrong in finding that the foregoing was sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the existence of a conspiratorial agreement between Speller and his cohorts.

Lastly, Speller argues that the trial court erred in finding that the evidence was sufficient to convict him of two counts of grand larceny of a firearm because the items stolen were not proved to be firearms. We hold that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to demonstrate that the instruments taken by Speller were designed, made and intended to fire or expel a projectile by means of an explosion.


Speller v. Commonwealth, Record No. 1826-17-1, Nov. 6, 2018. CAV (Petty) from Virginia Beach Cir. Ct. (Croshaw). Kristin Paulding for Appellant, Rosemary V. Bourne for Appellee. VLW No. 018-7-293, 15 pp. Unpublished.

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Title Annotation:Speller v. Commonwealth, Virginia Court of Appeals
Publication:Virginia Lawyers Weekly
Date:Nov 18, 2018
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