LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An investigator says three murder suspects came up with a plan to tell authorities about the night a Lufkin man was shot and killed.
Testimony resumed Thursday morning with Lufkin Police Department Cpl. Travis Strickland back on the stand.
Kendall Thompson's murder trial began Tuesday morning in District Judge Barry Bryan's courtroom with Thompson pleading not guilty to murder.
Thompson, her then-boyfriend, Elton Leroyce "June" Gibson Jr., of Lufkin, and Johnx Ray Greer, 20, of Lufkin, are charged in the death of Joseph Cooper on Cottonbelt Street in Lufkin.
According to an arrest affidavit, a witness said Cooper was in the house when he heard gunshots outside. He then went outside and about five to ten minutes later, Cooper was hit by a bullet.
The affidavit states Cooper was not involved in the initial conflict on the street, which began when a man "pie-faced" Thompson. Thompson left the scene and returned with Gibson and Greer and one of them fired the gun at the house, according to the affidavit.
Strickland talked to the jury through various aspects of the murder investigation. He told them about text messages Greer had received in jail through a contraband cell phone. Apparently, someone texted him, asking why Gibson had been arrested.
The investigator also said Thompson had visited Gibson and jail.
Strickland said through recorded jailhouse conversations, he discovered Greer, Gibson and Thompson had come up with some plan to tell authorities about the night Cooper was killed.
"They would say about keeping the story the same," said Strickland. "It shows me that they made these plans and actually acted on these plans. They had made this plan, they were sticking with this plan, and they actually came in and gave us this plan even after an arrest was made."
He also told jurors he had spoken with Gibson a few times. However, he said Gibson initially wouldn't give up the name of the shooter.
"I want to tell you that I did not shoot anyone," he said Gibson would tell him.
Strickland later testified they sent shell casings to the lab from the Cottonbelt crime scene and the results revealed all nine shells came from one weapon.
Angelina County Assistant District Attorney Katrina Carswell asked Strickland when he believed Thompson began telling them the truth about what happened. He said Thompson began opening up in one interview. He said he thinks the turning point for Thompson was when she realized he knew a lot about how the crime happened.
Defense attorney Al Charanza pointed out Gibson was with his attorney in a final interview with investigators when he finally gave up Greer's name as the shooter.
The state called Elton "June" Gibson, Jr. to the stand late Tuesday morning. He was Thompson's boyfriend at the time of the fatal shooting. He's also charged with Cooper's murder.
Gibson said the state had offered him an eight-year sentence to conspiracy to aggravated assault in exchange for his testimony. He said he understood that if he didn't tell the truth, the deal would be taken away.
Gibson said he had seen Thompson earlier that day.
Carswell asked him how well Thompson knew Johnx Greer and how she knew how to get to Greer's house the night of the murder.
"It's not the first time we've picked up Johnx," said Gibson. "She knew him pretty well."
He said Greer is known to carry guns and he's seen him with a gun on more than one occasion. Gibson testified Thompson has also seen Greer with a gun.
The prosecution asked Gibson about a statement Thompson had made to detectives where she said she doesn't allow people with weapons to get in her car. Gibson said that wasn't true.
"There are several times we've rode with a weapon," said Gibson.
Carswell began questioning Gibson about the night of the Cottonbelt Street fight.
"She [Thompson] was just tripping," said Gibson. He said she was yelling and screaming, but she didn't look physically like she had been in a fight.
Carswell began asking him about his relationship with Thompson.
He said he had never been abusive to her.
"I never struck her," said Gibson. However, he said she had hit him before.
He admitted he has had other girlfriends while he was dating Thompson and she would be jealous and sometimes get physical with him. He said she hasn't always been faithful to him either.
Carswell went back to questioning him about the night of the shooting.
He testified Thompson used Greer's phone to call her friend Nicole Jones after the shooting.
Gibson said Thompson had let him know that Greer was waiting on them after the fight at the Cottonbelt Street home.
Carswell asked why they were headed to Greer's house and he said because he guessed it was part of the plan. He told jurors Narvlee "Sierra" Young fired a weapon in the air at a different house after the altercation before they went to get Greer.
Gibson testified Thompson told Greer about what happened at the altercation.
He said Thompson told him a man tried to grab her out of her car because he said he didn't like white people. However, he said that story didn't make sense. He said Thompson had been smoking weed earlier that day. Gibson told jurors they all three, he, Thompson, and Greer, headed over to Cooper's home.
Gibson said he told Thompson to drive him over to Cooper's home so he could talk with the men.
"He [Greer] just started shooting," said Gibson. He said he had no idea that was about to happen.
The witness said Thompson never stopped the car and got out it, until after the shooting she began "tripping" saying she couldn't drive. He said they stopped at a stop sign and then Gibson began driving.
"How many times did he shoot," asked the prosecuting attorney.
"A lot, eight, nine, seven, somewhere around there," Gibson replied. He said there was no point where the two men dropped Thompson off and picked her back up after the shooting. He reiterated, he was not driving when the shooting happened.
Gibson did admit they came up with a plan to tell authorities to stay out of trouble. He was asked about what the plan entailed. "It never happened, we went straight to her friend's house after we left Sierra's," he said. Gibson also said they were going to keep Greer out of it.
He said he didn't tell detectives originally about Greer being the shooter because he didn't want to get him in any more trouble than he was already in for a prior crime.
He said he didn't remember ever telling detectives that he switched seats with Thompson so he could drive when the shooting happened.
"Did you ever figure out why Johnx needed to be in the car," asked Carswell.
"I guess because she [Thompson] didn't want me to go by myself," Gibson responded.
Carswell asked him if he knew Greer had a gun on him in the car that night. He said he wasn't going to say that he did or didn't know.
"I never expected nobody to lose their life," said Gibson.
Charanza began questioning Gibson about the night of the murder and the story he told to detectives.
He said he told detectives neither he nor Thompson shot Cooper. Charanza pointed out how long Gibson waited to tell officers Greer was the shooter.
Charanza asked him if he was a "Blood." He said "No."
He said he just wanted to go over to Cottonbelt Street to get their side of the story.
Charanza went back to the interviews Gibson had with authorities
"If it was the first interview, it was a bunch of bogus, it was a bunch of lies," said Gibson.
The defense attorney asked Gibson why he was agreeing to a plea deal with the state if he claims he didn't know there was a gun in the car and he didn't know the shooting was going to happen.
"Look at my chances man, I mean I'm on a case with ... I rather just plea out," said Gibson. "Do what's best for me and my family."
He admits to driving Thompson's car that January 2010 night only after the shooting.
Gibson was asked if Greer said anything to him after the shooting.
He said Greer told him, "He done what I should've done."
"I'm not here to persuade nobody, I'm just here to tell the truth," said Gibson.
He said Greer never asked him to have his back while they were in jail. Gibson also testified he never asked Greer why he did what he did that night.
Gibson said he wasn't sure if Greer was in a gang.
"Nobody was supposed to lose their life, man," Gibson said again.
Gibson testified after the shooting, people started calling him, saying Cooper died and they saw Thompson's car at the scene.
Charanza began questioning Gibson about why he called his relationship with Thompson dysfunctional.
"I'm no saint, you know," said Gibson.
Gibson admitted he would drop Thompson off at work and drive her car all day.
He said it was Thompson's plan to go get Greer that night, not his. Gibson also said his then-girlfriend knew about Greer's reputation.
Carswell pointed out at one point before the shooting, the three stopped at a store and only Gibson got out. He said Thompson and Greer were quiet when he got back in the car.
"No, don't do it," he said were Thompson's last words before Greer fired the gun.
Carswell asked if he knew then that Thompson realized what was going to happen and what "it" she was referring to.
"I figured it out," Gibson said.
The state questioned him about what he did wrong the night of the crime.
"You know that you're guilty of hiding the truth from police," Carswell pointed out.
Gibson admitted he told police Thompson did not like guns in her car. He said the first two interviews with police were lies because he was trying to cover up for Thompson and Greer.
The state rested and the defense called Kendall Thompson's mother to the stand, Kelli Thompson.
She told jurors about her disapproval of her daughter's relationship with Gibson.
"I did everything I could do to stop that relationship," said Kelli Thompson. "He had a hypnotic hold on her. I can't explain it to you."
"She was being used horrendously for her vehicle and her money," said Kendall's mother. "He used it more than she did."
She said when her daughter was around Gibson she acted defeated. She said on several occasions she noticed her daughter had bruises on her face and arm.
"I was very concerned," the mother said.
She said she did everything she could to cooperate with the detectives working on her daughter's case.
"We are sorrowful for the Cooper family," Kelli Thompson said.
She said her daughter exhibited a lot of fear after she had spoken to officers about the murder.
Kendall's mother said no one has said anything to her about what is going on in the trial. She has been ordered by a judge to sit outside with the rest of the witnesses for the duration of the trial.
"Kendall was being deceptive at that time," she said of her daughter the first time she spoke with detectives.
Kameron Thompson, Kendall's sister, was called to the stand Thursday afternoon.
She was also asked about her sister's relationship with Gibson.
"It was abusive in every single way," said the sister. She said Gibson was always verbally abusive and sometimes physically abusive to her sister.
"Her whole personality completely changed when she met him [Gibson,]" said Kendall's sister.
She testified that after the shooting, her sister was very timid.
Kendall Thompson was called to the stand to testify in her own murder trial Thursday.
Charanza asked her about her life when she moved to Lufkin and how she met Gibson.
"I guess at first I didn't have many friends," said Thompson.
She said at the beginning of her relationship with Gibson they just went to basketball games and hung out. Then about two or three months into things, she said things started to change.
"He [Gibson] would just slowly start maybe just being a little bit disrespectful," said Thompson.
She said probably four or five months in is when Gibson started putting his hands on her.
The defendant said her boyfriend would get really angry if he couldn't get in touch with her. She claims Gibson was very controlling.
Kendall said she went to get a sack of weed with some people the night of the shooting, before the original fight started at Cooper's house.
She said Narvlee "Sierra" Young wanted her to drop her off at her cousin's house.
"We went to the north side to Cottonbelt Street," said Thompson.
She said a woman immediately started yelling and cussing at Young when they arrived at Cooper's house. She told jurors she tried to get Young in the car, but when she refused, she left, made a block, and came back. Thompson testified when she got back to the house a man opened the door and tried to pull her up by her bra straps. However, someone pointed out that he was mistaking her for the wrong girl, so they let her go.
She said once they were able to get Narvlee Young back in the car, Young was irate, pounding the hood of the car, cussing.
Thompson said when they arrived back at another house, Young ran inside, got a gun, and shot up in the air. Thompson said she left and passed Gibson on the way out.
She said her and Gibson drove to Greer's house and picked up Greer. Thompson said normally they could get weed there where they picked up Greer. However, she said Greer said he didn't have any and they would have to drive to the north side to get some more.
Thompson said on the way to the north side, Greer was encouraging Gibson to go back over to the Cottonbelt Street home. She said she finally stopped the car and told the men she wasn't going to drive over there because she didn't want to go back.
She said she got out of the car, got in the passenger seat, and Gibson got in the driver's seat and proceeded to drive to Cottonbelt Street.
Once they arrived on the street, she said Gibson spotted a family member and didn't want to go over there.
"Johnx just said I don't give an [expletive] and just started shooting his gun," Thompson testified.
She maintains that she didn't know Greer had a gun.
"We leave, I'm freaking out at this point," she said. She said they never stopped.
Thompson recalls Gibson talking to Greer after the shooting.
"You didn't even point the gun in the air, you pointed it right at that house," she said Gibson told Greer.
Her attorney made her walk the jury through cell phone records to establish some sort of timeline of the night. Apparently Narvlee Young was contacting Greer.
Charanza pointed out that after the shooting, Gibson called Greer from a Huntington home where they were staying.
She said she was encouraged to lie to detectives to cover for Greer.
"From the beginning I didn't tell the truth because I was extremely, extremely, extremely scared," said Thompson.
"There was never a plan for any drive-by," said Thompson. She stuck to her story that Gibson was driving.
The state began questioning Thompson Thursday afternoon.
She said when she was interviewed the first time she honestly didn't know the shots that came from the car were the shots that killed Cooper.
"I wish very much that I would've told the truth from the beginning," said Thompson. "I didn't necessarily lie to protect Johnx. I lied to protect myself and my family."
She reiterated that she didn't tell the truth from the start because she was "terrified."
Carswell continued questioning Thompson about why she lied to officers when she knew a man had died and they were trying to find the killer. Thompson said she was scared and did eventually come clean with officers.
"If it wouldn't have been for me, they probably would've never got Johnx to begin with," said Thompson.
She said she was not trying to protect Greer and admits she lied initially to investigators.
The defense rested around 4 p.m.