Bowie County jury gives man life in football party murder

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: A Bowie County jury handed down a life sentence Wednesday for a man who started a fight at a party and later went to a man’s home and shot him.

Takyme Devon James, 41, was asked to leave a party Dec. 3, 2017, at a rented clubhouse on Lake Drive after his loud and obnoxious behavior led the host, Tony Sanders, to take action. When James put his hand on Sanders, Sanders quickly resolved the matter with a “one, two,” witness Ricky Darden testified Wednesday at a trial before a jury and 5th District Judge Bill Miller.

Darden said Sanders helped James up after the scuffle and walked him to the door. Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards argued in closing remarks that it was James’ injured pride that led to Sanders’ death later in the night.

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Witnesses testified that Sanders rented the space on Lake Drive for Sunday evening pro football games at which he served food and drinks and at which guests watched the game, played cards and dominoes, and socialized. James’ conduct at the Dec. 3, 2017, gathering was belligerent.

After his humiliating dust-up with Sanders, James left the party in a borrowed van and headed to the Idaho Street home of his cousins, LaPrense Willis and Clarence Willis, not far away. At some point, James armed himself with a .380 handgun that was never recovered and traveled in the company of his cousins to Sanders’ home on nearby Jones Street.

As James and LaPrense Willis and Clarence Willis neared the residence, Sanders and his wife, Dorsanner Butler, were walking out on their way to pick their then 3-year-old daughter up from Butler’s father’s home.

Butler testified that James was verbally confrontational as he headed up the driveway, armed with a pistol, and that Clarence Willis was cutting through her yard. Butler said she and Sanders retreated to their home and locked the door. Sanders told her to hide in a back bedroom and call 911.

That call was played Wednesday for the jury. At first, Butler speaks softly and tells the operator she is hiding in a closet and that she can hear someone trying to kick in the front door. Seconds later, as Butler sees her spouse bleeding to death on the floor of their den just feet away from their daughter’s colorful plastic toys, Butler’s voice changes. She screams at the dispatcher for help and pleads, “Tony, don’t you die on me.”

The first officer on the scene, Colten Johnson, tried heroically to save Sanders’ life. Medical Examiner Stephen Lenfest testified Wednesday that the bullet entered Sanders leg in the pelvic region where a tourniquet could not be applied and severed his femoral artery. Sanders died of blood loss caused by James’ bullet.

Assistant District Attorneys Lauren Richards and Kelley Crisp pointed out that James left the party, went to his cousin’s house, got a gun from somewhere, and then went to Sanders’ home. This, the prosecutors argued, was not a split-second bad decision, but a calculated plan to hurt someone that ended with the death of a father, a husband, a brother and a friend.

“He has no regard for human life. None,” Richards argued. “Think about that little girl who won’t ever get to see her father again because this man lost a fistfight.”

During the punishment phase of James’ trial, the jury heard testimony concerning James’ prior criminal record. Along with multiple misdemeanor convictions for criminal trespass, domestic violence, driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and failure to identify, James has been convicted of two prior felonies; robbery and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Larry Parker, who has a lifetime of service in law enforcement, testified that in 1996, James stabbed a woman who offered him a ride so he could steal her money.

“Takyme James has earned justice and in this case, justice is putting him away for as long as you can,” Richards argued. “Send a message about what we think about killing someone in Bowie County.”

James’ attorney, Derric McFarland of Texarkana, argued for mercy.

“I’m through with mercy. We’ve given him break after break after break and what’s he done,” Crisp asked. “Tell people like him: these are the consequences.”

Richards and Crisp praised the jury, law enforcement and all those involved with investigating the case.

“Takayme James, with a history of prison sentences for stabbing, robbery, domestic abuse, weapons charges and controlled substances violations, earned a life sentence today for murdering Tony Sanders,” the prosecutors said. “Having lost a fight to Sanders, James went looking for trouble and shot him in his home while his wife hid in the closet. The Bowie County District Attorney’s office appreciates the careful investigation conducted by the Texarkana, Texas Police Department and the jury’s maximum sentence upholding our county’s clear value of the worth and dignity of the lives of our citizens.

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