State rests in inmate’s capital murder trial

Tracy entering the courtroom in New Boston, Texas - Jan 08, 2016 (photo by Field Walsh)

NEW BOSTON, Texas: The state rested its case Tuesday in the sentencing phase of Texas inmate Billy Joel Tracy’s capital murder trial.

Tracy, 39, faces a potential death sentence in the July 15, 2015, murder of Correctional Officer Timothy Davison at the Telford Unit in New Boston. After Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp rested for the state Tuesday, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart put the trial in a recess until Thursday morning.

Tuesday the jury heard testimony from Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff who were working at the Hughes Unit in Gatesville, Texas, about Tracy’s plan to escape with two other inmates in 2014. Witnesses testified that Tracy and two others housed in administrative segregation had been managing to frequently spend their hour of daily recreation in two side by side outdoor areas.

Major Andrea Lozada testified that staff became suspicious because other inmates were declining their recreation time in such a way that Tracy and the other men were often being taken for their recreation time together, under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards. Lozada said she instructed staff to conduct business as usual and set up a plan to eavesdrop on the men. After learning of the plan to escape in April 2014, Lozada and other officers inspected the recreation yards.

Lozada testified as pictures depicting what looked like large outdoor enclosures with bars on the sides and top were shown to the jury. Lozada said officers discovered bars which had been cut at angles which made the damage difficult to detect.

Staff who searched Tracy’s cell after the escape plan came to light discovered a saw blade, a circular saw blade and other contraband which had been well hidden in his cell. Many of the Hughes Unit officers who testified Tuesday spoke of Tracy’s craftiness and ability to conceal contraband in his cell.

Correctional Officer Kimberly Adams testified that she once asked Tracy if he felt any remorse for stabbing and seriously wounding Officer Katie Stanley at the Clements Unit in 2005.

“He said he wished the bitch had died,” Adams testified.

Monday, former Correctional Officer Brianlee Lomas testified that he was escorting Tracy from a shower area at the Robertson Unit when Tracy slashed his face with a weapon made with razor blades removed from a disposable razor. Lomas’ face is scarred from the attack.

After Tracy’s escape plot was unearthed in April 2014, he was moved to the Telford Unit.

The last witness to testify Tuesday for the state was Renda DiBrizzi, Timothy Davison’s niece. DiBrizzi described her uncle as a kind, quiet and soft-spoken man who doted on his daughters.

DiBrizzi said Timothy Davison was living in Illinois with his mother, who was suffering from dementia, in 2014 when a gas leak caused the house to explode. DiBrizzi said her grandmother was killed but that her uncle was “blown out of the house.”

DiBrizzi said Timothy Davison expressed feelings of guilt for not having saved his mother although there was likely nothing he could have done following the unexpected explosion. DiBrizzi said neighbors brought her uncle shoes and clothes as he waited for emergency personnel to locate his mother’s body Sept. 1, 2014.

DiBrizzi said Timothy Davison moved to Simms, Texas, to live with his brother, Ken Davison, after losing all of his personal belongings in the house explosion. Ken Davison, who teaches trade skills classes at Telford, helped his brother get a job at the prison as a correctional officer, she said.

Timothy Davison began working for TDCJ in December 2014. He was murdered by Tracy less than a year later.

Davison was escorting Tracy back to cell 66 in administrative segregation when Tracy managed to slip his left hand free of its cuff and strike Davison in the head, knocking him to the floor. Tracy grabbed Davison’s metal tray slot bar and beat him, striking him repeatedly even after Davison lost consciousness. Tracy grabbed Davison’s feet and threw him down the stairs, spraying pepper spray on him and in the air.

Testimony from defense witnesses is expected to begin Thursday morning at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston. Once all witnesses have testified, the jury will be given instructions from Lockhart on the law. The jury has two questions to answer in determining if Tracy should receive the death penalty or life without parole: does Tracy present a future danger to society and are there factors or circumstances which would warrant a sentence of life without parole rather than death?

The jury is scheduled to return to the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston to hear testimony from defense witnesses Thursday morning.

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