NEW BOSTON, Texas: One of four men accused in the March 2016 murder of a Texarkana father was found guilty of capital murder Thursday and sentenced to life without the possibilty of parole.
Anthony Wilson Jr., 20, was convicted after 30 minutes of deliberation by a Bowie County jury of five men and seven women. The state did not seek the death penalty so 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart sentenced Wilson to life without parole, the only other punishment than death for capital murder under Texas law.
Wilson and three other men, Marshall Vallejos, 23; Jailon Gamble, 20; and Jaquelle Rogers, 22, were charged in the March 29, 2016, shooting death of Casey Smith. Smith, 28, was shot at least six times with two different guns as he sat in front of a house on Mamie Street waiting for his children’s school bus.
Vallejos pleaded guilty to felony murder earlier this year and is serving a sentence of life with parole possible. Capital murder charges remain pending against Rogers and Gamble, both of whom testified in Wilson’s trial.
“They re-routed the school bus so those kids wouldn’t have to see a dead man laying in the street,” argued Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp in closing arguments. “If you’re parents that ought to appall you. If you are a lawful citizen it ought to revolt you that this young man thinks he can get away with that here.”
Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards pointed out to the jury that people were out in the residential neighborhood doing yard work on a spring day at a time when children were returning home from a day at school. Wilson’s lawyer, Derric McFarland of Texarkana, argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Wilson.
Rogers and Gamble testified that they had been riding around with Vallejos and Wilson smoking marijuana. Both men said Wilson had a gun and provided a gun to Vallejos. Wilson caught sight of Smith as the men drove on South Lake Drive and Smith pulled into a Dollar General Store. Wilson told Gamble to park nearby as he and Vallejos walked to the Dollar General to rob Smith. But the men ran into Vallejos’ mother and abandoned their plan until Wilson spotted Smith parked in front of a house in the 2400 block of Mamie Street where he often waited for the school bus.
Rogers and Gamble testified that Wilson decided he and Vallejos would approach Smith and distract him by asking for a light for a marijuana cigarette Wilson carried. The men testified that Gamble stayed in the car while Rogers walked a short distance down a trail to watch as Vallejos and Wilson approached the car.
Rogers testified that he could not hear what was said when the sound of gunshots rang out. The men were spotted running by several witnesses.
Wilson shot Smith at least four times with a .380 semi-automatic pistol and inadvertantly shot Vallejos in the knee. Vallejos shot Smith once in the jaw with a .357 revolver.
Gamble, who said he wishes he’d been “brave enough” to leave when Wilson began speaking of robbery, said Wilson and Vallejos were pumped on adrenaline after the shooting.
“Vallejos said,”I caught my first body, I told y’all I could do it,'” Gamble testified. “He (Vallejos) said he was going to make the shell casing into a necklace. There wasn’t any remorse expressed.”
Lead investigator Dustin Thompson of Texarkana, Texas, Police Department, said Gamble, who has no prior criminal record, was clearly regretful when he came voluntarily to the Bi-State Justice Center the following day.
“You could tell it was something completely out of the ordinary for him,” Thompson said. “He was very remorseful and you could read it all over his face.”
Thompson said Gamble and Rogers turned themselves in within two days of the shooting and have fully cooperated. Wilson was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Tennessee at his girlfriend’s apartment April 18, 2016.
“He wasn’t wearing any clothes and he jumped through a glass window,” Thompson said. “He was desperate to get away.”
Casey Smith’s mother, Margie Smith, read a statement from herself and from Casey Smith’s biological daughter as she faced Wilson. Casey Smith’s daughter was nine when her father was murdered.
“Casey loved his family and they knew it,” Margie Smith said. “How do you describe in words, on paper, the feelings of his mother, his father, burying their youngest child, the only one they had together. How do you tell an 11-year old, nine when he was killed, that she is never to hear him tell her he loves her, that he will never be there for her milestones, see her graduate, be at her wedding, see her have her own baby.”
Margie Smith spoke of Casey Smith’s wife, Tameron Smith, to whom he’d married less than a year before, and the three young step-daughters he’d gone to pick up the day he died.
“The pain and aching are almost unbearable,” Casey Smith’s grieving mother said. “The tears are always there at the surface. He was only 28 years old.”
Many watching in the courtroom wiped their eyes as Margie Smith read her granddaughter’s statement.
“I’ll never be able to run into his arms again and tell him I love him. Knowing you’ll never be able to do that again is heartbreaking,” she read. “He’ll never see me graduate, get married or have children and he always wanted grandchildren. Everyone says he’s in a better place. But it wasn’t time for that.”