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Rice v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

November 13, 2019

Mary Barbara Craig Rice, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Escambia County. J. Scott Duncan, Judge.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and Barbara J. Busharis, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Rowe, J.

         Mary Barbara Craig Rice appeals her judgment and sentence for first-degree murder and accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Rice's ill-fated love affair with a former inmate led to an eight-day, multi-state crime spree that caused the death of four women and Rice's conviction of these crimes. We agree with appointed counsel that the record contains no reversible error and affirm. See Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967).

         Facts

         In the early morning hours of January 31, 2017, a guest of the Emerald Sands Inn heard six gunshots and called security. Security investigated and found two women-J.M. and A.G.-dead from gunshot wounds. The police officers investigating the murders suspected William Boyette was involved. Boyette and A.G. were involved in a tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship. A week before her murder, Boyette allegedly attacked A.G. and held her against her will because he believed that she stole drugs and money from him. The officers' suspicion that Boyette was involved in the shooting was confirmed after a witness reported that she saw Boyette outside J.M.'s and A.G.'s room right before hearing gunshots. Police also learned that Boyette's mother rented a dark-colored SUV seen at Emerald Sands on the night of the murder.

         While investigating the Emerald Sands murders, the police discovered a connection between Rice and Boyette. The two became pen pals while Boyette was in jail. After his release, witnesses saw Boyette at Rice's home and said the two were romantically involved. The day after the Emerald Sands murders, Rice told a family member that she had left town and was okay. The police obtained surveillance video of Rice at a Wal-Mart in Crestview, Florida two days after the murders. Rice bought two boxes of ammunition, hand warmers, and a sleeping bag. While Rice was inside the Wal-Mart, the police believed Boyette was waiting for her in a car outside.

         Three days after the Emerald Sands murders, Boyette and Rice traveled to Lillian, Alabama, where a third woman, P.B., was murdered. Surveillance video from that day shows Boyette and Rice driving around town, first in a dark-covered SUV and later in a white Concorde. Boyette and Rice were observed driving those same vehicles near the home of P.B. Neighbors testified that they heard a loud pop before they saw the Concorde and the SUV drive away from the area near P.B.'s home. P.B's father-in-law found her lifeless body outside on the ground near where she parked her car. P.B. died from a gunshot wound to her face. The police learned that the Concorde observed on the surveillance video and by the witnesses belonged to P.B. Police found the dark-colored SUV abandoned about three miles from P.B.'s home.

         Two days after P.B.'s murder, Boyette and Rice were spotted in Pensacola, Florida, where the fourth woman, K.C., was murdered. A witness saw Boyette and Rice in the woods about a mile from Beulah Road where K.C.'s house was located. The day after Boyette and Rice were seen near K.C.'s house, K.C. did not report to work. And she did not drop her eighteen-month-old son off at daycare as scheduled. K.C.'s mother was worried and went to K.C.'s house to check on her daughter. She found K.C. leaning against a dresser in her son's nursery, facing the crib where the child was still sleeping. K.C.'s hands were bound with shoelaces and a white rope encircled her waist and hands to prevent her from moving her hands. K.C. suffered a gunshot wound to her head. Although she was still breathing when her mother found her, K.C. died the next day as a result of her injuries. Officers investigating K.C.'s murder found the Concorde owned by the third victim, P.B., abandoned three miles from K.C.'s home. And they discovered that K.C.'s car, a white Chevy Cobalt, was missing. Later that morning, witnesses saw Rice driving the Chevy Cobalt.

         The day after K.C.'s murder, police found the Chevy Cobalt parked at the West Point Motel in West Point, Georgia. The police found Rice and Boyette at the motel. Rice surrendered. Boyette did not. Moments after Rice surrendered, the police heard a gunshot from the motel room. They entered the room and found Boyette dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

         Rice was arrested and interviewed by police. She stated that after the Emerald Sands murders, Boyette showed up at her home covered in blood and carrying a small gun. Rice claimed that Boyette then forced her to leave with him in a dark-colored SUV. Rice alleged that Boyette forced her to comply with his demands by hitting her, holding her at gun point, and threatening to kill her. She denied any involvement in P.B.'s death or that she was at the scene of the murder. Instead, she claimed that Boyette duct-taped her to a tree in a wooded area on the outskirts of town. Some time later, Boyette returned driving P.B.'s car. Rice admitted that she was present when Boyette shot K.C. Rice entered ...


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