Nacogdoches man on trial for 2009 death of estranged wife

John Presley mug shot courtesy of Nacogdoches County Jail.
John Presley mug shot courtesy of Nacogdoches County Jail.

BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - By Morgan Thomas - email

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Testimony began Monday afternoon in the trial of a Nacogdoches man accused of killing his estranged wife.

Authorities say John Presley killed Stephanie Fowler Presley and dumped her body near the Rusk County line, in Dec. 2009. Authorities arrested John Presley near the Mexico border.

Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Chambers called Danny Wallace to the stand first.  Wallis found the dead body of Stephanie Presley on the rainy morning of Dec. 17, 2009.

He said he was putting corn in deer feeders, when he saw garbage sacks and what looked to be a dead body lying by a creek near the Rusk County line.

Wallace described the body to the jury, "I thought it was a boy when I first saw it… {the leg] appeared to be broken… the face was horrible… there was no face."

Wallace said he immediately went home and called 9-1-1.

Next, Chambers called Officer Thomas Butler to the stand who worked for the Sheriff's Office at the time.  He was the responding deputy to the call.  He went to Wallace's home, and was shown where the body was found.

"As we walked up, I had Mr. Wallace stop and I continued on," Butler said. "The head of the body was on my left, the feet was on my right… the leg was broken… you could see the bone puncturing the skin… I could tell it was a female."

The next witness called by the prosecution was the lead investigator of the crime scene, Mike Claude, with the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office.

He discussed evidence collection and documentation at the scene.  He also described some of the evidence found around the body.  The prosecution offered pictures of the evidence collected at the scene: the body of Stephanie Presley, the windbreaker that the deceased was wearing, a shell-casing, three cigarette butts, a cell phone retrieved from the victim's coat pocket and a blue shock towel (found on a road that was the entrance to the crime scene).

Claude told the jury how the body was identified to be Stephanie Presley. "One of my investigators knew her personally, and he also identified her by fingerprints."

A warrant for John Presley's arrest was granted after it was found that he was using the victim's bank card the night before the body was found, Claude said, along with reports from the family about their estranged relationship.

Presley's ex-wife before Stephanie, Rona Wallace, was called to the stand by the prosecution.  She told the jury Stephanie was a friend and both she and John told her about the problems in their relationship.

Wallace told the jury that John told her he was going to have to kill Stephanie since he wanted a divorce, but said Stephanie would not give him one.  However, Wallace called John "a blow-hard," and did not take the statement seriously.

It was also revealed that Stephanie would financially support John throughout their on-off relationship.

At the time of Stephanie's death, John was living with someone named Charlotte Marlowe and Stephanie didn't like it, according to Wallace. She told the jury in the last e-mail from Stephanie she seemed like she was getting stronger.

Chambers next called John Nelson, who works at Stephanie's bank, Commercial Bank of Texas, to the stand. He then offered into evidence photos from the ATM camera where John Presley used Stephanie's debit card to withdraw cash the night before her body was found, Dec. 16, 2009.

Texas Ranger Tom Davis was next on the stand. The prosecutor asked how long it took for John to become a suspect in Stephanie's murder.

"We were still at the scene when we had a suspect in mind," he said.

John was arrested, according to Davis, at the border near Laredo. ICE agents picked him up and detained him.  After he was taken back to Nacogdoches, Davis obtained a search warrant for his vehicle at the border. The vehicle belonged to Charlotte Knight.

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