New Boston, Texas–A Bowie County jury leveled a 60-year prison term Thursday in the trial of a 22-year-old Texarkana man who robbed his victim.
Marquell Smith will not be eligible for parole until he has served one half, or 30 years, of his sentence. The jury also assessed a $10,000 fine.
Smith was found guilty by the jury of three men and nine women just before 8 p.m. Wednesday. Thursday morning they returned to the Bowie County courthouse at the instruction of 202nd District Judge John Tidwell to hear arguments on the punishment Smith should face for killing 24-year-old Christopher Guilbeau on the morning of Feb. 23, 2015.
Tuesday and Wednesday witnesses testified that Guilbeau was parked somewhere near 14th Street in Texarkana, Texas, when Devonte Evans, a young homeless man, approached him for a cigarette. Guilbeau handed him three and a lighter and then asked Evans if he could help him sell some methamphetamine. Evans described the meth as a single, “rock.”
Evans said he never would have directed Guilbeau to Smith’s girlfriend’s apartment if he’d known what he now does. Guilbeau, with Evans in the passenger seat, drove to an alley off Della Street where Shamari Newton, who formerly dated Smith, rented a small apartment. Guilbeau sat behind the wheel of his white Dodge truck while Evans knocked on the apartment door and asked Smith if he was interested in buying the meth. Newton, Smith and Brandon Brown were in the apartment. Newton and Brown are facing murder charges in the case as well.
Smith told Evans he’d be down in a minute. Once Evans left, Smith asked Brown for his .38 revolver and headed downstairs. Smith took the seat behind Evans and Smith and Guilbeau briefly discussed a price. Evans testified that he noticed the barrel of a gun pointed at Guilbeau from the back seat when the conversation in the truck stalled to an “awkward silence.”
Smith yelled at Guilbeau to give him the drugs and then shot him in the face. Evans said Smith yelled at Guilbeau twice more before each of two shots that entered Guilbeau’s back and ended his life were fired. Smith put a gun to Evans’ neck and warned him to keep quiet. Newton, who heard the shots as she waited with Brown in her apartment, testfied that she was threatened to maintain silence also.
Smith and Brown were arrested March 5 in Tulsa, Okla., in Guilbeau’s truck. The victim’s step-father, John Cates, had reported him missing the evening before. Guilbeau’s body was found wrapped in discarded carpet padding in a wooded area near Newton’s apartment the evening of March 6.
“Mr. Smith drug his body out of the truck and dumped him like he was trash,” argued Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter in her closing. “At some point he tosses some of Mr. Guilbeau’s belongings into bushes at the Country Host Inn. He wipes his (Guilbeau’s) blood off of a phone charger (in the truck). Mr. Smith has shown total disregard for the value of this human life.”
Before the lawyers gave closing arguments, Smith’s attorney, Bruce Condit of Texarkana, called Smith’s father to testify on his behalf. The sight of his father led Smith to cry out and break down in tears.
“I’m sorry dad, I didn’t do it,” Smith said.
Tidwell briefly removed the jury and warned Smith against further outbursts after giving him a chance to talk with Condit and collect himself. Condit argued to the jury that the young defendant should be given a “just and fair” punishment that would allow him to someday be a productive member of society.
Carter and First Assistant District Attorney Michael Shepherd reminded the jury of Smith’s prior criminal history. As a juvenile, Smith was sentenced to three years in the Texas Youth Commission for assault on a public servant in April 2012. While there, he assaulted a correctional officer and was transferred to an adult prison.
“Defense counsel wants to appeal to your sympathy. Reality is ugly,” Shepherd argued. “We can’t save all the young people no matter how hard we try.”