NEW BOSTON, Texas: It took about an hour for a Bowie County jury to sentence Billy Joel Tracy to death for the July 15, 2015, slaying of a correctional officer at the Barry Telford Unit.
Tracy, 39, is now headed to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s death row. Correctional Officer Timothy Davison was escorting Tracy back to his cell following an hour of recreation July 15, 2015, when Tracy escaped from his handcuffs and attacked. After knocking Davison down, Tracy grabbed the officer’s metal tray slot bar, a tool used to open the slot in cell doors, and beat him with it until Davison’s face was unrecognizable. Davison was pronounced dead a few hours later at a Texarkana hospital.
Tracy’s jury found him guilty of capital murder Oct. 27. Wednesday they sentenced him to death.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards told the jury there has never been evidence which more strongly supports a death sentence in Texas than the testimony the jury heard in Tracy’s trial.
“Someone will receive a death sentence at the end of this trial,” Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp argued. “Will it be another correctional officer with TDCJ or will it be Billy Joel Tracy?”
Tracy’s defense attorneys, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, argued that mitigating circumstances should lead to a sentence of life without parole rather than death, citing brain abnormalities testified to by defense experts and testimony from a defense psychologist that Tracy’s childhood was traumatic.
The jury had to decide if Tracy presents a continuing threat to society and whether any mitigating circumstances would make life without parole the appropriate punishment rather than death. The jury answered yes to the first of the “special issues” and no to the second, leading 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart to sentence Tracy to death.
Tracy’s jury heard from many prior victims of Tracy’s violence. A woman who was beaten, burned and dragged into a wooded area in Rockwall, Texas, was among the witnesses. Tracy was sentenced to two life sentences plus 20 years for the assault on the girl in Rockwall, a related assault on a Rockwall police officer and a home burglary when he attacked Correctional Officer Katie Stanley at the Clements Unit in 2005, nearly killing her.
Tracy was sentenced to an additional 45-year sentence for the attack on Stanley and a 10-year sentence for an attack on former Correctional Officer Brianlee Lomas in 2009. Tracy slashed Lomas’ face, permanently scarring him, at the Robertson Unit. While at the Hughes Unit, Tracy and two other inmates in administrative segregation managed to hatch an escape plan and had sawed through bars in a recreation yard when they were caught. In January 2014, Tracy was moved from Hughes to Telford, where he was held until he murdered Davison.
Tracy constantly mounted minor assaults on prison staff, was constantly found in possession of dangerous contraband, and repeatedly promised he would some day kill a correctional officer, witnesses testified.
Lockhart advised Tracy of his right to appeal his death sentence to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as the proceedings ended Wednesday.
Timothy Davison’s brother, Ken Davison, said there will always be a void in the lives of Timothy Davison’s daughters but that he is grateful to the Bowie County District Attorneys Office and the jury for their work.
“I’m relieved,” Ken Davison said. “Justice has been a long time coming.”