from Madison Circuit Court (CC-16-2866)
Application for Rehearing
Court's unpublished memorandum of March 1, 2019, is
withdrawn, and the following opinion is substituted therefor.
Lewis Payton was convicted of abuse of a corpse, a violation
of § 13A-11-13, Ala. Code 1975, and was sentenced, as a
habitual felony offender, see § 13A-5-9, Ala.
Code 1975, to 40 years' imprisonment. Payton appealed. We
and Procedural History
relevant facts of this case are undisputed. In the early
morning hours of October 16, 2015, the dismembered corpse of
Tonya Amerson was discovered in a cardboard box with a
"U-haul" logo behind a shopping center in
Huntsville. Chris Hines, an investigator with the Huntsville
Police Department who responded to the scene, testified that
Amerson's "arms were cut off near the shoulder and
the body was cut right above the pelvis clean in two"
(R. 125), and "the body parts ... had been ... placed in
garbage bags," along with "a couple of kitchen
knives." (R. 126.) After identifying Amerson, Hines
began "looking for the last known addresses for ...
Amerson" and "came up with a couple of addresses
for her." (R. 127.) Those addresses included
Payton's apartment, which was the address on
Amerson's driver's license, and Amerson's
parents' house. In an attempt to notify Amerson's
family of her death, Hines first went to Payton's
apartment but received no response when he knocked on the
door. Thereafter, Hines went to Amerson's parents'
address and spoke with Amerson's parents. According to
Hines, during that conversation Amerson's parents told
him that, one week earlier, they were "informed by
[Amerson] that [Amerson] would be staying at [Payton's]
apartment." (R. 12.) Amerson's parents also told
Hines that "there were [three] children involved[, i.e.,
that Payton and Amerson had three children together, ] and
there were supposed to be children at [Payton's]
apartment." Id. Although Hines could not recall
the children's ages by the time of trial, he testified
that he "kn[e]w some were quite young" and that, at
that time, he had no knowledge of the children's
whereabouts. (R. 18.) Thus, Hines testified:
"At that point, I made contact with my supervisor ...
and informed them that there are children involved. That we
don't know where the location of the children are.
"At that time we __ during our discussions, we agreed
that it would probably be the safe bet to check the apartment
and make sure there is nobody else injured or needing any
type of medical attention inside the apartment."
point after that conversation, another investigator from the
Huntsville Police Department attempted to locate Payton at
Payton's place of employment. However, Payton was not
there and "actually had a paycheck there and had not
picked it up at that time." (R. 21.) Thereafter, Hines
and other police officers, including Officer Kevin Newie,
reported to Payton's apartment. After "knock[ing]
and announc[ing] 'Police, '" the officers forced
entry into the apartment. (R. 22.) Hines did not enter
Payton's apartment but remained outside the front door.
As to what occurred after the officers entered the apartment,
"Q. Can you describe what Officer Newie discovered?
"A. Officer Newie explained that he went upstairs. He
went to look under the bed to make sure nobody was under
there. When he knelt down there he come up with a wet spot on
his knee. He looked over and saw a wet-dry vacuum cleaner,
carpet cleaner. And then he looked over to the side of the
bed and noticed what appeared to be blood on the sides of the
"Q. What did Officer Newie do at that point?
"A. He came down and explained to me what he discovered.
At that time, I told him to back out. We need to get a search
"Q. At that time, did you obtain a search warrant?
"A. I did.
"Q. And pursuant to that search warrant, you did a
search of the apartment which produced all of the evidence ...