Jury finds Lufkin man guilty of murder in roommate's death

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A jury has found a Lufkin man guilty of murder in connection to his roommate's death.

The jury found Rodney Evan Shepherd, 44, guilty in less than two hours. He was also found guilty of aggravated assault.

After the verdict was read, Shepherd began hugging his mother and screaming to her that he was sorry. Lufkin Police officers rushed into the courtroom after Shepherd suddenly collapsed.

A jury will also determine Shepherd's sentencing. The hearing will begin Friday morning.

According to the police report, Lufkin Police officers responded to a disturbance call at 11:01 p.m. at 908 Rowe Avenue on March 6. When they arrived, they found Frederic Gilmore, a resident at the house, laying in the front yard with a wound to his neck. He was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

Also on scene was Shepherd, another resident at the house, who told officers he had stabbed Gilmore, according to the report. Officers recovered the knife out of his pocket and arrested Shepherd, according to the report.

Following interviews with detectives, Shepherd was booked into the Angelina County Jail on a charge of murder.

Police say the two began arguing over an unknown issue inside the house. The argument then turned into a physical fight outside.

District Judge Paul White began the third day of the murder trial by reading the charge to the jury. White reminded jurors that Shepherd faces two counts: a murder count and an aggravated assault count.

Closing arguments began with prosecuting attorney Dale Summa reminding jurors about the facts of what lead to Gilmore's death. Summa pointed out the number of stab wounds found on Gilmore's body.

"The medical exam shows there were three or more, but definitely two," said Summa. "Two or more, that goes obviously beyond accident and shows intent."

Summa argued that by the number of stab wounds found on Gilmore's body, and by the way the defendant and other witnesses described the events, Shepherd provoked Gilmore. Summa said that if Shepherd had time to park his bike, as he described on the witness stand, he was not acting irrationally. Summa argued that Shepherd was full of intent in stabbing Gilmore.

The prosecution went on to point out that Shepherd's argument was inconsistent in both of his police interviews that were played in court on Tuesday and in his testimony on the stand. Summa also pointed out that Shepherd had misdemeanors for failing to give proper identification to police officers.

"The defendant has the propensity to lie. He's been convicted of it four times, lying to the police," said Summa.

Summa reminded jurors that Shepherd had previous run-ins with the law for "aggressive behavior".

"He had another incident, which he didn't remember. He says he was under the influence. But, ultimately he went to court for assault," Summa.

Summa briefly described the other incident of assault to further illustrate to jurors that he feels Shepherd prodded Gilmore during the March 6 disturbance.

"He has aggressive tendencies," said Summa.

In the defense's closing arguments, Shepherd's attorney, Bill Agnew, relied on the fact that Shepherd was calm when officers responded to the scene the night Gilmore was killed.

"The state would like you to believe Rodney was aggressive in the house," said Agnew. "And basically killed Gilmore in cold blood."

However, Agnew pointed out that Gilmore's body was discovered to have alcohol and drugs in his system. Agnew argued that due to him being under the influence, Gilmore had to have been the aggressor in the situation. Agnew said the state relied on Shepherd's past run-ins with the law to point out his guilt.

"They put in a lot of things to make Rodney look guilty because of his past. It's there. But, it doesn't mean he was guilty on March 6," said Agnew.

Agnew said Shepherd remained at the scene and told officers what happened. He said officers said Shepherd was calm when they arrived on scene. Agnew argued that anger is an emotion, which cannot be turned on and off that quickly. Furthermore, Agnew argued the evidence did not line up with the actions of someone who was intending to kill.

"You don't take your bicycle when you intend to kill someone," said Agnew.

Agnew pointed out the bicycle Shepherd was riding was in the street, which showed his intent to leave. Agnew also pointed out the piece of wood Gilmore was holding was in the street. He said evidence and actions taken at the scene also showed that officers did not believe Shepherd was acting under the influence.

"If they had thought he was impaired, they would have drawn blood. They didn't draw blood," said Agnew.

In cross examination, Summa argued that Shepherd had a "jive attitude" in the first interview with police, a couple hours after the stabbing. Summa said when the scene turns as violent as it did, it is possible for Shepherd to have calmed down. Summa also argued that Shepherd's arrest record shows he's very familiar with the law.

"It's in his interest to calm down, and then again he's familiar with the police officers," said Summa.

Summa charged the jury to find Shepherd guilty of both murder and aggravated assault.

The jury was dismissed to begin deliberating at 9:40 a.m.

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