State v. Elder, 2022-NCSC-142, ___ N.C. ___ (Dec. 16, 2022)

In this Warren County case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals decision finding that the second of defendant’s two kidnapping charges lacked support in the record and should have been dismissed because the rape supporting the kidnapping charge had already concluded before the events of the second kidnapping.

The two kidnapping charges against defendant arose from the rape of an 80-year-old woman in 2007. Defendant, posing as a salesman, forced his way into the victim’s home, robbed her of her cash, forced her from the kitchen into a bedroom, raped her, then tied her up and put her in a closet located in a second bedroom. The basis for the kidnapping charge at issue on appeal was tying up the victim and moving her from the bedroom where the rape occurred to the second bedroom closet. Defendant moved at trial to dismiss the charges for insufficiency of the evidence, and argued that there was no evidence in the record showing the second kidnapping occurred to facilitate the rape.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal majority that the record did not support the second kidnapping conviction. The court explored G.S. 14-39 and the relevant precedent regarding kidnapping, explaining that kidnapping is a specific intent crime and the state must allege one of the ten purposes listed in the statute and prove at least one of them at trial to support the conviction. Here, the state alleged “that defendant had moved the victim to the closet in the second bedroom for the purpose of facilitating the commission of rape.” Slip Op. at 30. At trial, the evidence showed that defendant moved the victim to the second bedroom “after he had raped her, with nothing that defendant did during that process having made it any easier to have committed the actual rape.” Id. Because the state only alleged that defendant moved the victim for purposes of facilitating the rape, the court found that the second conviction was not supported by the evidence in the record. The court also rejected the state’s arguments that State v. Hall, 305 N.C. 77 (1982) supported interpreting the crime as ongoing, overruling the portions of that opinion that would support interpreting the crime as ongoing. Slip Op. at 42.

Chief Justice Newby, joined by Justice Berger, dissented and would have allowed the second kidnapping conviction to stand. Id. at 45.