Man gets 40 years for Newton County murder

NEWTON, TX (KTRE) - A man was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to a Newton County murder.

Brandon Lee Lewis Nichols took the plea agreement after prosecutors agreed to drop capital murder charges in the death of Byron Land, of Newton. He will be eligible for parole.

"After he shot my nephew, you know, he actually got out of the truck," explained Land's Uncle Enrique Land.  "He and his girlfriend tried to drag him out in the streets and throw him in the woods. A person that does that, all I can say, you know, is I hope he finds a way to give his soul to God."

Land's mother Debra Jenkins read a statement in the hearing expressing disappointment in the agreement. She said she had lost her oldest son, who had two children of his own.

"Our family is really disappointed in this type of situation, we know that you could never completely relieve satisfaction, but we were looking for better justice," said Enrique Land.

District Judge Gary Gatlin expressed sympathy to Land's family. He said he would be out of office by the time Nichols came up for parole, but if he were in office he would recommend turning him down.

"As I told Mrs. Land and the family, they don't always understand what the burden of proof is that the District Attorney has and what evidence is admissible and what is not admissible," said Gatlin.  "If a person were to get 100 years for a crime like this, it still is not going to bring the victim back and my heart goes out to them, and it literally is a crying shame."

Nichols sat and listened through the whole proceeding. In an interview, his grandmother, who is also his adopted mother, extended sympathy to Land's family. She said she had lost four of her own children.

Land's family said they are trying to forgive.

"Forgive him?"  asked Land's Grandmother Sharon Whitaker.  "For what he [did,] I pray for his soul to make it in, but what he [did] was wrong.  They're going to have to give an account before God because he sits high and he looks low and he reigns on the just as well as the unjust."

Land's not coming back, but his killer won't either, at least for now.

"I want to emphasize he is not necessarily going to walk out the doors after 20 years," said Gatlin.

"Byron wasn't perfect, but he was a young man trying to turn his life around," said Enrique Land.

Byron's life was taken, and Nichols' was spared. Land's family said this is not the end.

"He said that vengeance is mine and whatsoever a man soweth that so he also reap," said Whitaker.

Land was found lying face down on County Road 2034 in January. He later died in a Beaumont hospital. Nichols and Jodie Self were charged in the death, and Self awaits trial.

Multiple attempts were made to contact the Newton County District Attorney, but she was not available to comment.