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Ryder v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

July 18, 2019


          On Appeal from the 412th District Court Brazoria County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 79985-CR

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Hassan, and Poissant.



         A jury found Appellant Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr. guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.021 (Vernon 2019). The jury sentenced Appellant to four life sentences; the trial court's final judgment states that these life sentences are to run consecutively. In three issues, Appellant asserts (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (2) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of certain extraneous offenses; and (3) the trial court erred by admitting Facebook messages that were not properly authenticated. For the reasons below, we affirm.


         Appellant was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Appellant proceeded to a jury trial in February 2018.

         Complainant, Appellant's daughter, testified at trial. Complainant met Appellant for the first time when she was 13 years old, after having been removed from her mother's custody by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("DFPS"). Complainant moved into Appellant's Lake Jackson house in the summer of 2013; Complainant lived at the house with Appellant, Appellant's wife Tiana Ryder, and Tiana's son.[1]

         Complainant testified in detail regarding two incidents of sexual assault that form the basis of Appellant's convictions. The first incident occurred in December 2013, when Complainant was 13 years old. According to Complainant, a Christmas party was held at Appellant's house during which she was given alcohol. Complainant recalled drinking too much and said she went to the bathroom in her bedroom to vomit.

         Stating that she "was really drunk" and that "[e]verything was dizzy," Complainant said she walked out of the bathroom and was met by Appellant. According to Complainant, Appellant asked her if she "was okay" and if she was "having a good time." Complainant testified that Appellant hugged her and started rubbing her back and butt. According to Complainant, Appellant told her he "had a surprise" for her and showed her a bottle of strawberry lubrication. At some point, Appellant took off his necklace that had his wedding ring on it and Tiana became upset and was mad at Appellant about it.

         Appellant and Complainant walked out of Complainant's bedroom and into Appellant's bedroom. Appellant and Complainant lay on the bed; Tiana walked into the bedroom and lay on the bed with Appellant and Complainant. Complainant was in the middle of the two adults. Complainant said Appellant opened the lube and let her "taste it and Tiana, both of us." Complainant testified that Appellant and Tiana "started making out over the top" of her while Appellant was "rubbing on [her] leg." Complainant said Appellant instructed her to take off her shorts. Complainant took off her shorts and sat down on the bed; Appellant kept trying to get her to come in a little. "Like he would reach over and rub [her] leg and try to get [her] to join in." Appellant and Tiana were on their knees on the bed kissing and Appellant reached for Complainant and pulled her into the bed. Appellant and Tiana starting kissing Complainant and she also kissed Tiana.

         Complainant testified that Tiana walked out of the bedroom and told the remaining party guests to leave the house. While Tiana was out of the bedroom, Complainant said Appellant took off her shirt and underwear and performed oral sex on her. Tiana returned to the bedroom and, according to Complainant, "it started getting really heated." Complainant was on the bed and Tiana was on her knees performing oral sex on the Complainant at the same time that Appellant was having "doggy style"[2] sex with Tiana. Appellant then had sex with Complainant, putting his penis in her vagina and anus. While Appellant was having sex with Complainant, Tiana "was trying to get in front of" Complainant and "wanted" Complainant to perform oral sex. Tiana laid down on the bed and Complainant, on her knees, performed oral sex on Tiana while Appellant was having "doggy style" sex with Complainant.

         Complainant testified that her stomach started to hurt and she felt dizzy, after which she fell off the bed. Complainant said Appellant and Tiana gave her a pillow and blanket and she "laid there on the floor for a little while." Complainant slept for a short while before returning to her bedroom.

         Complainant testified about a separate incident that occurred several days later at a New Year's Eve party held at Appellant's house. Complainant said she was drinking alcohol in the living room when Appellant and Tiana "started kissing." Complainant said "Tiana came over . . . and started kissing on me, like you can get in, too. Don't be afraid." Complainant testified that she went in Appellant's bedroom with Appellant and Tiana and "pretty much the same thing happen[ed]." Complainant said she again had sexual intercourse with Appellant during which he put his penis in her vagina. Appellant then had sexual intercourse with Tiana, during which he rubbed Complainant's clitoris and put his fingers inside her vagina. Complainant testified that the incident lasted for "maybe an hour." Afterwards Appellant, Complainant, and Tiana returned to the living room and watched the New Year's Eve ball drop on television.

         Complainant testified regarding her interactions with Appellant after the incidents at the Christmas party and New Year's Eve party discussed above; this testimony described several of the extraneous offenses Appellant challenges on appeal. These incidents are summarized as follows:

• Appellant had a "sit-down" with Complainant and Tiana to "talk about everything that happened." During the sit-down, Appellant, Complainant, and Tiana discussed "basically like rules . . . like we had to find a compromise between us two where [Appellant] could get what he want[ed] and [Complainant] [could] still get stuff that [she] want[ed]." Complainant agreed to provide Appellant "sexual things" in exchange for "little freedoms" like going to beach parties, spending the night at friends' houses, and smoking marijuana. Complainant was told she could not tell anyone about the sexual encounters.
• During some sexual encounters, Complainant would urinate on Appellant. While she was urinating, Appellant would masturbate and "sometimes . . . stick his finger up [Complainant's] vagina."
• Complainant was required to give Appellant her underwear at the end of the day. Appellant would put Complainant's underwear on her stuffed frog, which he would use while masturbating.
• Complainant described "quickies" with Appellant, where he would have sexual intercourse with her at "random moments."
• While he was masturbating, Appellant would instruct Complainant to insert a phallic instrument into his anus.
• Appellant gifted Complainant a sex toy during Christmas 2014.
• Complainant said Appellant "had a lot" of sex toys that they used "on some occasions."

Complainant said her sexual relationship with Appellant lasted "[f]or most of 2014 going into 2015." In July 2015, Complainant started dating J.V., whom she knew through work and school.[3] J.V. moved in to Appellant's house that same month. Complainant said Appellant was "jealous" of her relationship with J.V. and told her she "spent too much time with" J.V. According to Complainant, Appellant wanted J.V. to move out of the house and gave him "formal notice to vacate" in March 2016.

         On March 28, 2016, Complainant and J.V. went to the Lake Jackson police station and Complainant reported Appellant's actions to Detective Rachel Pierce. Detective Pierce collected Complainant's cell phone and photographed sexually-explicit messages sent from Appellant to Complainant on Facebook Messenger. These photographs of Appellant's and Complainant's messages were admitted into evidence at Appellant's trial.

         Complainant also testified regarding the DFPS caseworkers with whom she had worked, stating she "had like three or four" caseworkers during the time she lived at Appellant's Lake Jackson house. Complainant said she did not report the sexual abuse to any of the caseworkers except Leonor Salazar. Complainant said she met with Salazar in February 2014 and told Salazar she "had been sexually assaulted by [Appellant]." Complainant testified that Salazar told her that she was lying. Afterwards, Complainant said she made up her mind that she "wasn't going to tell anybody else" because she "didn't want to go back into a foster family."

         Ten additional witnesses testified at Appellant's trial - relevant portions of their testimony are summarized below.

Crystal Wilson, a DFPS investigator. Wilson met with Complainant after Complainant disclosed the sexual abuse allegations to Detective Pierce. After meeting with Complainant, Wilson interviewed Appellant twice. Wilson discussed with Appellant the "sexual nature" of the messages he sent Complainant. After reviewing one of the messages, Wilson testified that Appellant admitted to sending the message and said it "was a joke."
Kristi Bellomini, a forensic interviewer at the Brazoria County Alliance for Children. Bellomini interviewed Complainant on March 31, 2016. Complainant discussed the sexual incidents with Bellomini; Bellomini testified that Complainant "was very detailed with what it was that she shared with me." On cross-examination, Bellomini testified that Complainant did not discuss an incident that occurred on New Year's Eve.
Leslie Klug, cast manager at Fearshire Farms, a haunted house in Angleton, Texas. Klug worked with Appellant at Fearshire Farms. On one occasion, Klug used Appellant's phone and found on the phone "some emails and some pictures that concerned" her. Klug passed this information on to Detective Pierce.
Detective David Hawkins, with the Lake Jackson Police Department. Detective Hawkins assisted with executing a search warrant at Appellant's house on March 31, 2016. Detective Hawkins testified regarding the numerous sex toys found at Appellant's house.
Detective Stephen Bailey, with the Lake Jackson Police Department. Detective Bailey also testified regarding the search warrant executed at Appellant's house on March 31, 2016.
Detective Rachel Pierce, with the Lake Jackson Police Department. Detective Pierce testified regarding her meeting with Complainant on March 28, 2016. Detective Pierce said she "collected [Complainant's] phone at that time and . . . also took some photographs from her Facebook account." Detective Pierce also discussed the search warrant executed at Appellant's house. On cross-examination, Detective Pierce acknowledged that (1) Complainant did not discuss the New Year's Eve incident with her; (2) Complainant did not say anything about "tasting some type of lubricant along with Tiana;" and (3) she was not able to verify that Complainant had told a DFPS caseworker about the sexual incidents.
Stacy Casey, a DFPS caseworker at the Angleton office. Casey testified that she had home visits with Complainant "several years ago" and met with Complainant approximately 12 times at Appellant's house. Casey testified that she did not "see any sex toys laying out in the open" at Appellant's house.
Leonor Salazar, a DFPS caseworker in San Antonio. Salazar testified that Complainant did not tell her about the sexual abuse allegations. Salazar denied telling Complainant she was lying about the allegations.

The jury returned a verdict finding Appellant guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual assault. For each count, the jury sentenced Appellant to life in prison; the trial court's final judgment states that these sentences ...

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