Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 156th District Court of Live Oak County,
Justices Rodriguez, Contreras, and Longoria.
V. RODRIGUEZ Justice.
Alfonso Atkinson appeals his conviction for manslaughter. By
one issue, Atkinson argues that there is insufficient
evidence to show that he was reckless in causing the death of
Calvin Jacob Rathel. We affirm.
after 6:00 P.M. on the evening of January 14, 2015, Rathel
appeared at the front door of Deanna Talbot's home in
Lagarto, Texas. Talbot's granddaughter Dallas opened the
door and found Rathel bleeding, clutching his stomach.
According to Talbot's testimony, Rathel told her that he
had been stabbed by his friend "Alfonso, "
Talbot's neighbor. Rathel said that he and Alfonso had
been drinking at Alfonso's house when their conversation
erupted into an argument. Rathel died ten to fifteen minutes
before authorities arrived.
autopsy was performed by medical examiner Adel Shaker, who
determined that the cause of death was a stab wound to the
stomach. Shaker also documented cuts on Rathel's fingers,
hand, and forearm, which Shaker characterized as
"defensive injuries." Shaker testified that given
the clean nature of the incisions, the wounds could not have
been caused by a mishap such as falling into a pile of jagged
iron, as Atkinson suggested at trial, or by any single act
with a weapon. Instead, the wounds were of such different
direction, location, and depth that they had to be the result
of multiple stabs with a knife.
Joe Guerra of the Live Oak County Sheriff's Office was
amongst the first to arrive at the scene. Deputy Guerra
testified that he noticed a trail of blood beginning in
Talbot's driveway and ending at a house where Atkinson
was standing on the front porch. Deputy Guerra also observed
gold paint on Atkinson's lips and blood on his pants. He
placed Atkinson in the patrol unit.
Deputy Charlie Strumley then arrived, administered
Miranda warnings, and questioned Atkinson. During an
interview which was captured on a dashcam recording, Atkinson
varied his account of the day: Atkinson at first stated he
had been at home alone all day; he then asserted he was home
but denied knowing whether anyone else was present; he next
claimed he was not aware of anything happening at the house
because he had not been home; he last said his mother had
been home that day, but she left at some point, and no one
else was present. When asked about the shiny substance on his
lips and red spot on his pants, Atkinson admitted that he had
been huffing paint and claimed the spot was from meat he had
been cooking. Chief Strumley testified that he believed
Atkinson to be intoxicated, given that Atkinson had paint on
his lips and smelled of alcohol.
then gave consent for a search of the premises. Chief
Strumley left Atkinson in the back of the police unit, during
which time Atkinson licked his lips clean. When Chief
Strumley resumed questioning, Atkinson stated that at
approximately 1:00 P.M., he barbequed inside the
"shed" in his back yard with his friend Joe Torres
who left his house at approximately 2:00 P.M. Atkinson
explained that he remained at home after Torres's
departure, but left at some point to go "around the
block, " and that he had only recently returned home.
denied knowing anything about the blood found spattered near
the fire pit in his shed. However, Atkinson volunteered that
his mother had brought a friend he did not know to stay at
the family's cabin the previous day. When Chief Strumley
showed Rathel's driver's license to Atkinson,
Atkinson stated that Rathel looked like his mother's
friend, whom he had not seen since the previous day. However,
when questioned further about his mother, Atkinson stated
that he and Rathel had driven her to the bus station that
morning. When asked again about the substance on his lips and
the red spot on his pants, Atkinson denied that he had been
huffing paint and claimed that the red spot was
Strumley testified that a camouflage jacket with blood stains
was found during the search of Atkinson's house. The
blood stains matched Rathel's DNA.
testified that he arrived at Atkinson's house at around
11:00 A.M. that day. According to Torres, Atkinson was
wearing a "military-type jacket" and had a hunting
knife in a holster on his hip. He stated that a friend of
Atkinson's was there, who was introduced to him as
"Jake." The three men barbequed, and Torres learned
that Jake was "staying with Alfonso in one of the little
shacks" near the property. They left Atkinson's
house at approximately 2:00 P.M. and drove to Torres's
house three miles away, where they planned a construction
project. When Atkinson and Jake left Torres's house some
time later, Atkinson invited Torres to join them for dinner.
Torres returned to Atkinson's house at 7:15 P.M., but
arrived to find the street blocked off with police tape.
Aguirre of the Texas Rangers testified that he found a
nine-inch knife in Atkinson's front yard. Ranger Aguirre
further testified that on the day after Jake Rathel's
death, he interviewed Atkinson on video while he was in
custody. In the video, Atkinson stated that he met Rathel for
the first time on the day of his death. Atkinson stated that
he had driven his mother to the bus station with Rathel early
that morning, then returned home and dropped Rathel off at