Death penalty trial continues; more witnesses say Tracy a threat

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: Witnesses who testified for the state Thursday in the sentencing phase of Billy Joel Tracy’s capital murder trial described the Texas inmate as a trouble maker bent on taking the life of a correctional officer.

Tracy, 39, was found guilty last week by a Bowie County jury of capital murder in the July 15, 2015, beating of Correctional Officer Timothy Davison. Davison, 47, died within hours of being beaten with a metal tray slot bar at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston as he was walking Tracy from a dayroom to his cell in administrative segregation.

The jury heard testimony Thursday from two men who were in their early twenties and working as detention officers in the Rockwall County jail after Tracy was arrested for assaulting a 16-year-old girl, assaulting a police officer and burglarizing a house. Rockwall County Sheriff’s Office Detective Glen Hill testified Tracy was the most difficult inmate with whom he’s ever been faced, under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp.

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Hill said Tracy nearly killed him and former jailer Trey Leftwich two days after a Rockwall jury sentenced Tracy to two life sentences and an additional 20 years. Hill said he and Leftwich were nearby when a call came over the radio for help Aug. 2, 1998. The officers realized it was a fellow officer who was outside supervising inmates in the recreation yard who made the call and quickly headed to his aid.

Leftwich testified Tracy had made it over a razor wire fence by using a sheet he’d wrapped around his body under his jail clothes to cover the wire and climb over to an area where an armed officer was on patrol. Leftwich and Hill said Tracy was on top of the officer when Leftwich tackled Tracy.

“I did not see he had the officer’s duty weapon when I was running down there,” Leftwich testified. “The first shot went off when I tackled him. I could see the barrel. If I hadn’t of acted he’d have shot me in the head.”

Leftwich and Hill testified that as the second shot from the .45 caliber pistol rang out, Leftwich managed to move the gun and knock it from Tracy’s hand. The men struggled with Tracy and had to use pepper spray to get him under control.

Leftwich testified that Tracy had to be housed in a cell by himself because he assaulted other inmates. A letter Tracy wrote before his trial in Rockwall included threats to kill a “bitch ass rent a cop,” referring to jail and prison officers.

Hill said Tracy had a particular dislike for Leftwich, who testified Tracy threw urine and feces on him and repeatedly threatened him. Hill said members of the Rockwall County Sheriff’s Office transported Tracy to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice Unit the day after he nearly killed Leftwich and Hill in the recreation yard.

Multiple TDCJ officers testified Thursday about Tracy’s disruptive conduct in prison. TDCJ Correctional Officer Johnathan Estepp testified Tracy constanly shot at officers with handmade darts, flooded his cell and made threats while housed in the Allred Unit near Wichita Falls in the late 1990s.

Former Correctional Officer David Byrd testified Tracy once told him he was, “going to kill a C.O. before it was all said and done.”

Tracy was eventually transferred from Allred and moved to the Clements Unit in Amarillo where he was housed in general population until late 2005. As TDCJ Lt. Jimmy Bagsby testified, a video of Tracy stabbing a female correctional officer with a homemade knife was played for the jury.

A friend and now retired co-worker of the wounded officer testified he didn’t know if it was a man or woman when he ran to assist the day of the stabbing.

“She was covered so much in her own blood I didn’t know whether it was a male or female until she started yelling, ‘help me,’ and I recognized her voice,” retired officer Robert Mitchell testified.

Mitchell testified that as medical staff and officers lifted Katie Stanley onto a backboard to transport her, the weapon fell out of her body and onto the floor. Tracy was sentenced to an additional 45-year term for his assault on Stanley. She is expected to take the stand Friday morning.

Tracy’s jury has the option of sentencing him to death by lethal injection or life without the possibility of parole. At the start of the punishment phase of Tracy’s trial Wednesday, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart told the jury he expects this part of the trial to take longer than the guilt or innocence phase, which took about three and a half days.

Tracy is being held at the Telford Unit during his trial.

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