Trinity County Jury finds man guilty of killing his employer

GROVETON, TX (KTRE) - A Trinity County Jury deliberated more than two hours before delivering a guilty verdict to a man accused of slashing the throat of his employer.

The sentencing phase of the trial will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Michael Berber was on trial for killing his employer, Mark Haslett in Nov. 2007.

A Texas Ranger testified Tuesday afternoon that the defendant in a Trinity County murder trial told him he stabbed his victim after blacking out.

Sgt. Pete Maskunas said Michael Berber admitted to him that he was smoking a joint with the victim, Mark Haslett, and blacked out. When he woke up, there was blood everywhere, Maskunas said Berber told him.

Maskunas also said Berber told him Haslett was making advances to him.

Maskunas read the statement Berber gave him, which said Berber said, "I'm sorry for what I did" and that Berber said he was sexually abused by his "papa" and when Haslett came toward him naked, "I blacked out and stabbed in the neck.

Also, a Trinity County Probation Officer took the stand to explain how Haslett, at the time of his murder, was on probation for sexual performance of a child and for possession of child pornography.

Much of Tuesday afternoon's testimony surrounded around DNA evidence, which Maskunas said none was discovered from the defendant, but that one can commit murder without leaving their DNA.

Two women from a crime lab took the stand and also said they found none connected to Berber, but the district attorney was able to point out through questioning that they also found no other DNA samples.

Two Trinity men testified Tuesday morning that Berber told them he killed his employer.

James Manis, who is serving a prison sentence on a burglary conviction, told a jury Berber asked him to be on lookout for him while he robbed his employer, Haslett. Manis said he told him he wanted no part of it.

"His plan was to go to Mark's house and get Mr. Mark to give him oral sex ..." Manis said. "And he was going to cut his throat."

Manis said Berber showed up at his home the next morning after the Nov. 2007 murder and "had blood on his hands and stuff."

Manis said Berber told him he cut Haslett's throat and heard a gurgling noise so he stabbed him a couple more times.

Manis admitted on cross-examination that he told law enforcement what he knew because he needed help with a parole revocation.

Also testifying Tuesday was Berber's nephew, Cody Gladney, who refused to point out who Berber was in the courtroom, explaining that he could not look at his uncle.

Gladney also said he refused to be a lookout for Berber, that Berber showed up at his house the next day with blood on him, that he admitted to killing Haslett and that he told law enforcement this after he needed help on a criminal charge.

Gladney did go into more detail about Berber's account of the murder, saying Berber intended to rob Haslett, but after they smoked a joint together, Berber took a blanket off him, exposing him naked and he stabbed him, then cut his throat.

"He said Mark said, 'please don't do this,'" Gladney said.

The defense stressed with both witnesses how they did not call police when Berber allegedly first told them of his intentions. Both witnesses said they did not think he was serious.

With Gladney, the defense pointed out how he had given three different statements to law enforcement about the murder, and how there were even time gaps in his testimony. Gladney was visibly upset with the defense's questioning.