State v. Sawyer


Court: Court of Appeals of North Carolina

Date published: Mar 21, 2023


Isaac Melcher (“Melcher”) was working as a physical therapist at Sentara Medical Center when he met the defendant in the fall of 2017. Melcher specialized in “dry needling,” and due to the nature of his work, most appointments would occur in a “private treatment room.” The defendant was referred to Melcher as “she was not seeing adequate relief” with her pain, and her therapist believed “dry needling would be helpful[.]” Melcher would typically see the defendant “two to three times a week, depending on scheduling and availability.”

The first time Melcher treated the defendant, they engaged in “fairly normal” conversations about their “personal lives[.]” Their conversations “initially progressed to discussing how controlling [her husband] Milton was.” The defendant stated that Milton “didn’t allow her to go out with friends” or “go to church because he didn’t want her… to be around other men.” The defendant also expressed to Melcher that Milton “was not interested in her” and explained how “she would be naked in bed and… he wouldn’t even look at her.” Melcher testified that it was normal for patients to share information about their home life and marriage issues, “but not to that extent.” According to the defendant, Milton would “yell at her to the point where she would become so anxious she would… vomit or, have] a panic attack.”



The evidence at trial indicated that the defendant was present during the commission of Milton’s murder and acted according to a common plan between her and Melcher. The fact that the evidence tends to show Melcher strangled Milton while the defendant was in the bathroom does nothing to lessen the defendant’s criminal culpability. See Williams, 299 N.C. at 657, 263 S.E.2d at 778 (finding acting in concert jury instruction proper where “[t]he action of both [parties] created one orchestrated sequence of events,” which led to the victim’s death). The defendant’s argument is overruled.

For the foregoing reasons, we find no error. 



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