In 1998, Deputy Sheriff Robert Zwick of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department responded to a 911 call at the residence of Sam Ivan Martin and Crystal Martin. When he first arrived at the scene, no one was at the residence. Martin arrived as Zwick was walking back to his car.
Zwick testified that Martin seemed surprised when he was informed that Crystal was not at home. Martin and Zwick then entered the residence to determine if Crystal was in fact at home. Zwick testified at that point Martin was not a suspect for any crime. Although they did not find Crystal in the trailer, Zwick did discover that the couch had been moved. Zwick testified that he was familiar with the Martins’ home because he had been previously called out to their residence.
Zwick testified that when Martin moved the couch back to its normal position, Martin found blood. Zwick also determined that another spot, which he first thought to be a ketchup stain, was also blood. After discovering blood at the Martins’ residence, Zwick then called his supervisor, Captain Bud Polifrone.
While Zwick and Martin were at the trailer, Martin told him (1st statement) that he and Crystal were inside eating with their four children when they heard a “bang” at the back door. Crystal went to the back door with a shotgun and informed Martin that it was his father, Chester. She also told Martin to “get the kids safe.”
At that time, Crystal had charges against Chester for simple assault and stalking. Zwick testified that Martin told him he then loaded all of the children inside their vehicle and left the trailer. Martin told Zwick that this was the last time he saw Crystal.
Martin also told Deputy Sergeant James Robert O’Bryant, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department (2nd statement), that Crystal was gone but he did not elaborate except to say that he and Crystal were having problems and were separated at the time.
Deputy Sheriff Mike Sears arrived at the scene and discovered casings from a 12-gauge shotgun.
The next day, O’Bryant asked Martin to come in for questioning (3rd statement before leaving room). He was Mirandized and signed a waiver form. O’Bryant testified that no one threatened or coerced Martin in his presence. O’Bryant stated that he made an audio tape of the interview. After this initial interview, O’Bryant stated that he left the room to attend to Department business.
Martin was left in the interview room alone with Captain Carew. When O’Bryant returned to the room and after Captain Carew had left the room, Martin made another statement (3rd statement after leaving room) which was not recorded. O’Bryant testified that Martin broke down and told him that the shotgun went off, hit her in the side of the head and her eyeball was hanging out and he didn’t want her to suffer, and so, he shot her in the chest.
O’Bryant testified that Martin stated he then placed Crystal’s body in the septic tank outside the trailer. O’Bryant testified that he did not coerce Martin to make this statement. This conversation which occurred approximately 15 minutes after the taped conversation was the last conversation O’Bryant had with Martin.
O’Bryant also testified that Martin had indicated to him that he had been beaten while he was alone in the interrogation room with Captain Carew. O’Bryant testified that based on Martin’s emotional state, he believed Martin was telling the truth about the beating.
The trial court determined that Martin’s first two statements made to Zwick and O’Bryant were freely, voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly made. Therefore, the motion to suppress those two statements was denied. The trial court held that the portion of the third statement made after the recorded statement would be excluded based upon violence exhibited toward the defendant.
Martin was convicted of murder and sentenced to life. On appeal, he argued the suppressed statement contained information that Crystal’s body was in the septic tank while the other admitted statements said she was in a shallow grave. Thus, he argued the trial court should not have allowed any testimony as to Crystal’s body. MCOA affirmed.
In Richardson, we said that for a confession to be admissible, it must have been given voluntarily and not given as a result of promises, threats or inducements. In determining whether a statement is voluntary, the trial judge must first determine whether the accused, prior to the confession, understood the content and substance of the Miranda warning and the nature of the charges of which he was accused.
Although this court has repeatedly recognized that an accused’s intelligence level and mental abilities are an important factor to be considered in determining whether a confession has voluntarily been given, there are no per se rules against admitting the confession of a mentally challenged person.
MSC said in Neal v. State, 451 So.2d 743 (1984), that the mental abilities of an accused are a factor—but only one factor—to be considered. When all of the facts and circumstances of the particular confession and the interrogation leading up to it are considered—including the accused’s abilities—the trial judge must find as a fact whether the confession was intelligently and voluntarily made. That fact finding will not be disturbed here unless we find it clearly erroneous.
In Williamson v. State, 330 So.2d 272 (Miss.1976), MSC said that a confession will not ordinarily be excluded merely because the person making the confession is mentally weak. Until it is shown that a weak-minded person has been overreached to the end that he has divulged that which he would not have divulged had he not been overreached, his voluntary confession is admissible.
After a thorough review of the record, we decline to hold that the trial court’s finding regarding Martin’s ability to voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive his rights and make two separate statements was clearly erroneous or against the overwhelming weight of the evidence.
We further find that the trial court was correct in denying Martin’s motion to preclude all mention of Crystal’s body by applying the rationale that the Sheriff’s Department would have discovered the body from the information given to them by Martin in his second statement which was admitted into evidence.