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Webb v. Schlagal

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

August 31, 2017


         On Appeal from the 318th District Court Midland County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. FM-56, 779

          Panel consists of: Wright, C.J., Willson, J., and Bailey, J.



         Buddy Wayne Webb appeals the trial court's lifetime protective order that enjoined him from any contact or communication with his ex-wife, Lori Beth Schlagal, and her minor daughter. The Midland County district attorney alleged in the application for a protective order that Webb had engaged in a course of conduct that constituted stalking, as defined by Section 42.072 of the Texas Penal Code.[1]Webb asserts five issues on appeal. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts

         Schlagal and Webb, after a brief courtship, married in September 2011. The two separated three months later and divorced in March 2012. Although Webb was the petitioner in the divorce case, Schlagal testified that she separated from him because she "felt [her] life was in jeopardy." Schlagal said that Webb was "very delusional, and he believed that I was a part of a conspiracy against him."

         A. Marital Discord

         Schlagal claimed that, during their marriage, Webb routinely locked the two of them in a room and interrogated her. On one occasion in December 2011, Webb locked himself and Schlagal in a room and asked her "who the pimps, the tricks and the drug dealers were that were breaking into his home." Webb believed that a "prostitution ring" operated in and around his house. Webb had a theory that "possibly there's a tunnel that comes under my house that goes up through these pathways that" lead into the attic. Webb testified that the tunnel and pathways provided a transportation system for the "prostitution ring." Webb questioned Schlagal about her involvement in the prostitution ring.

         Webb claimed that his do-it-yourself, home-security system, which included Home Depot motion detectors, Samsung cameras, and a Vivint security system, alerted him to the presence of intruders. He believed that intruders gained access to his home through tunnels, pathways, or a basement. Webb conceded that his house had no basement. He also acknowledged that people could not go through four-inch walls to get to the attic, but nonetheless, he believed that the tunnels provided pathways to the attic.

         On another occasion during their marriage, Schlagal called the police after Webb came home screaming and asking her where his gun was. The police reported to the scene and placed Webb in their police car, but they released him after he agreed to leave the premises. When asked if Webb had threatened to kill or hurt her on this occasion, Schlagal acknowledged that "[a]t the time [Webb] didn't make a direct threat to me, no." Webb also thought Schlagal was having an affair with a sex doctor in Dallas after he had gone through her phone and phone records. Webb continued to accuse her of being part of a prostitution ring and said that her breath smelled like "semen." At the end of December 2011, Schlagal and Webb separated.

         B. Webb shoots himself in his home with a tripwire device attached to a 12-gauge shotgun.

         In January 2012, Webb suffered a gunshot wound to his right ankle while in his home. Webb was hospitalized for the gunshot wound, which he initially said was an accidental shooting. Webb admitted that he kept weapons and a small amount of tear gas in the house. Later, when Detective Rosie Rodriguez of the Midland Police Department spoke to Webb in the hospital, Webb claimed that two neighborhood children had gained entry to his house through tunnels underneath his home and shot him. Webb provided Detective Rodriguez with a hand-drawn map of the tunnel and other pathways, which the State subsequently introduced into evidence. Detective Rodriguez started an investigation and went to Webb's home. She found a 12-gauge shotgun connected to a "tripwire that went across from one wall -- from the south wall to the north wall" of a small hallway. After the police had used a robot to clear Webb's house of any dangers, they removed his weapons from his home, including the 12-gauge shotgun and two pistols. Detective Rodriguez characterized Webb's injury as "self-inflicted" and described him as "delusional."

         C. Schlagal alleges Webb stalks her following the divorce.

         Webb testified that "the last time that I seen or talked to [Schlagal] was June or July of [2012]. So it's been a year and a half since I seen or talked to her, and as far as I know she lived in Lubbock, or still does. I don't have her phone number, you know." Schlagal corroborated this testimony from Webb. However, Schlagal explained that, after she left Webb, he continued to try to locate her through Facebook friends and by e-mailing her and others. He also threatened her family.

         D. Webb alleges Schlagal is responsible for his gunshot wound.

         At some point, Webb decided that Schlagal was somehow responsible for his gunshot wound. Webb claimed that Schlagal had a relative who was a doctor who treated him for his gunshot wound and that the doctor lied when he reported that he removed shotgun wadding from the wound because Webb said he was not shot with a shotgun. Arthur Welch, Schlagal's ex-boyfriend from after the divorce, contacted Webb via private Facebook message in October 2012. Welch alleged that Schlagal had tried to have Welch killed and asked if she may have had a part in Webb being shot. Webb introduced a copy of the conversation into evidence. It read as follows:

[Welch]: Do you think [Schlagal] had anything to do with the shooting? I dated her for a short time here in lubbock. And she threatened to have me killed.
[Webb]: I feel pretty sure that [Schlagal] was in Lubbock the weekend I was shot, so I don't think she was the shooter. I absolutely believe that she knows who did though. She would've gotten the house and 1/2 million dollars IF I would've died ACCIDENTLY as it were made to look like. . . .
[Welch]: Well I think she had a lot to do with it from the things she said. And I'm so never will trust her either.
[Webb]: What did she say? Did she mention any names?

         This conversation with Welch prompted Webb to send two e-mails directly to Schlagal. The first e-mail, sent in November 2012, read as follows:[2]

I told you to call the FBI the other day because of this conversation where your ex-boyfriend told me that you were involved in the attempt on my life. If you didn't, then you are being framed. If you did, then your busted. Either way, it's in your best interest to . . . [and tell] EVERYTHING that you know. It's like I told another friend of mine, 10 years is better than 30.
Furthermore, just knowing about a felony and not reporting it is a felony under federal law. Do a Google search on "Misprison of . . ." information about this federal crime.
One more thing, Why didn't you mention that [] used to own the house around the corner?

         E. Schlagal alleges Webb continues stalking her in 2013.

         In October 2013, Webb sent Schlagal a second e-mail. The State presented this e-mail as another instance of Webb's stalking. Webb asked Schlagal in the e-mail, "What was your part in the break-ins of my house, the death of my mom[3] and the murder attempt on my life?" Webb's e-mails made Schlagal feel harassed, tormented, embarrassed, and offended, and she also feared for her life. At some point between Webb's November 2012 and October 2013 e-mails, Schlagal, acting on the advice of Detective Rodriguez, sent Webb an e-mail that demanded he cease all contact with her. Webb denied that he ever received that e-mail.

         Schlagal testified that Webb had sent numerous e-mails to people and had hundreds of Facebook postings that accused her of being part of a prostitution ring, which he said was her "family" business; being involved in the break-ins in his house; being involved in his mother's death; and being part of a conspiracy to murder him. Webb acknowledged that he sent her e-mails and made Facebook postings about her and that he deleted posts, but he denied that he stalked her.

         Robin Gonzalez reported to Schlagal's stepmother that Webb had posted on Facebook that he was going to kill Schlagal. Schlagal testified that Webb continued to search for her, e-mail people about her, put hundreds of posts about her on Facebook, and accuse and threaten her family. Webb sent Schlagal an e-mail insinuating that she was involved in a murder attempt on him and stating that she should contact the FBI. Schlagal reported to police that Webb would not leave her alone, and Detective Rodriguez explained that Schlagal feared for her life. Schlagal wanted the trial court "to enter a two-year protective order based upon stalking."

         Webb admitted that he had called the police, Texas Rangers, FBI, and attorney general and reported that his gunshot injury was a murder attempt on his life. He also admitted that he had sent several e-mails to police about the murder attempt. In his words, "[Schlagal] would be the most obvious suspect." Webb persisted in what the police and Schlagal both described as "delusional" behavior. After a hearing where both parties testified and presented evidence, the trial court granted Schlagal's application for a protective order.

         II. Iss ...

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