LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A jury has sentenced a Lufkin man to 60 years in prison for stabbing his roommate to death.
The jury sentenced Rodney Evan Shepherd, 44, to 60 years on a murder charge and a concurrent 25-year sentence for an aggravated assault charge.
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.
In Friday morning's testimony, the prosecution called upon one witness, who testified about fingerprinting Shepherd briefly before she was dismissed from the stand.
The defense called upon Myrtle Fay Davis, who testified that she is Shepherd's aunt by marriage, as she is married to Shepherd's uncle.
"Rodney, to me has been a wonderful person," said Davis.
The witness stated that she has been very close to Shepherd's mother.
"Rodney is a good person. I don't think Rodney meant to do anybody harm. Rodney is not a violent person," said Davis.
Davis said the family would do everything in their power to help Shepherd through this situation.
Prosecutor Dale Summa asked Davis a few questions of her knowledge of Shepherd's other criminal history before dismissing her from the stand.
Defense attorney Bill Agnew called upon Dorothy Shepherd as the next witness. However, as soon as she was seated, Shepherd seemed to have some concern over his mother being called to the stand. The jury was asked to leave the courtroom so Judge Paul White could talk to both counsels.
Shepherd asked the judge to allow him to leave the courtroom while his mother testified, to avoid any emotional outbursts, as the judge asked him to do if he felt emotional.
"I know Rodney have did something very very wrong," said Dorothy Shepherd.
The witness said she did not have contact on a daily basis, sometimes it was every two or three weeks when she talked to him. However, she said her divorce from Shepherd's father and Shepherd's drug usage most likely contributed to his criminal behavior. The witness argues Shepherd stabbed Gilmore in self-defense.
"I do know he is sorry for what he did," said the witness.
The witness made a plea to the jury to "be fair" in sentencing Shepherd.
"To be honest, I think Rodney might try to commit suicide," said the witness. "He started having bad dreams. He started having night sweats. He got depressed. He couldn't sleep. I told the people at the jail to get him some help."
Agnew asked the witness why Shepherd elected not to be in the courtroom during testimony.
"He doesn't want me to go through anymore grief and pain that I'm already going through," said the witness.
Summa asked the witness whether she felt Shepherd could control his actions under the use of drugs. The witness replied that she could not answer that question.
"Would you like justice for Fred Gilmore?" said Summa.
"Yes I would. If I could, I would bring him back," said the witness.
With no further questions or witnesses from either council, the jury was dismissed for the court to prepare the charge for deliberation.
White asked Shepherd if he wanted to take the stand in his own defense, and Shepherd declined. However, he decided to give a statement to the family members in the courtroom.
"Ya'll, I want ya'll to know, I was not intending to kill Fred," said Shepherd. "I did not mean for this to happen to Fred. Me and Fred was tight, ya'll know that."
Near tears, Shepherd called out a few family members by name specifically.
"I ask ya'll to please find it in your hearts. Please forgive me because I was not intending to kill Fred, and that's all I have to say," said Shepherd.
The jury was called back into the courtroom, and White read the charges and punishment range to the jurors. In opening arguments, the prosecution argued Shepherd has never successfully completed probation and he's gone to jail before. "Nothing really works," said Summa.
Summa reminded jurors of the importance of their job in sentencing Shepherd.
"I think it goes without saying that unless the jury gives a just punishment, then our time has been wasted," said Summa.
Summa argued that Shepherd did not seem to care that this would affect his mother so greatly.
"Reasonable punishment is the only justice Frederic Gilmore and the family and everyone that cares about him will get out of this," said Summa.
The prosecutor argued that with a criminal record as long as Shepherd's, he needs to spend some time "rehabilitating".
"Start your consideration at 60 years and up," said Summa. "Quite frankly, I feel the life sentence is appropriate in this case."
In his closing argument, Agnew asked jurors to make a decision, not out of anger. Agnew relied upon religious beliefs to present his argument.
"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you," said Agnew.
Before taking his seat, Agnew asked jurors to think about forgiveness.
Countering Agnew's statement, Summa said forgiveness is one thing. However, he said Shepherd's actions took away a man's life, as he held a picture of Gilmore up to remind jurors. Summa then reminded jurors they may have seen remorse in the police interview with Shepherd, but asks did Shepherd cry every time he got in trouble.
"We saw some crying in the video. I wonder if he cried over all of these," said Summa as he held evidence of Shepherd's prior criminal history.
The judge allowed jurors to begin deliberations at 10:40 a.m.