State of Tennessee v. Wendy D. Hancock

Case Number

In August of 2018, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) secured an
ex parte order placing B.B.,1 the minor daughter of Wendy Dawn Hancock, Defendant, in
the custody of DCS after a referral prompted an investigation. During the span of several
days, Defendant and B.B. stayed at both a hotel in Lebanon and Defendant’s attorney’s,
Connie Reguli’s (“Ms. Reguli’s”) home in Brentwood without ever being formally served
with the ex parte order. Police eventually located B.B. and Defendant in Brentwood.
Defendant was indicted for one count of custodial interference, in violation of Tennessee
Code Annotated section 39-13-306. Ms. Reguli was also charged with several offenses for
her actions. Defendant sought a dismissal of the indictment before trial. The trial court
denied the motion. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of custodial interference.
She was sentenced to two years on supervised probation. The trial court denied the motion
for new trial; Defendant appealed. On appeal, Defendant argues that: (1) the indictment
should be dismissed because it fails to allege all of the elements of custodial interference;
(2) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the elements of custodial interference;
(3) the trial court improperly instructed the jury that the ex parte custody order was “valid
and enforceable”; (4) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction; and (5)
Tennessee should adopt an advice of counsel defense for specific intent crimes. Because
the trial court improperly instructed the jury essentially removing one of the elements of
the offense and lowering the burden of proof, we reverse the judgment of the trial court
and vacate Defendant’s conviction. We remand the case to the trial court for any further
proceedings that may be necessary.

Authoring Judge
Judge Timothy L. Easter
Originating Judge
Judge Joseph A. Woodruff
Date Filed
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