Tyler Co. Sheriff: Arrest of 4 suspects in murder of Zavalla couple just the beginning

Nathan and Krystal Maddox
Nathan and Krystal Maddox
Paul Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Paul Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Letha Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Letha Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Kristen Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Kristen Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Cameron Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)
Cameron Westfall (Source: Tyler County Sheriff's Office)

TYLER COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Even though the four suspects in the January shooting deaths of a Zavalla couple are now behind bars, Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said Wednesday that the investigation is still ongoing.

According to Tyler County Chief Deputy Phil Ryan, Paul Westfall, Letha Westfall, Kristen Westfall, and Cameron Westfall were arrested after a traffic stop near Mt. Carmel Church, where Nathan and Krystal Maddox were killed on Jan. 18 while they were on a custodial visit with Nathan Maddox's 5-year-old daughter.

Kristen Westfall is Nathan Maddox's ex-wife, and Paul and Letha Westfall are her parents. Cameron Westfall is Kristen's brother.

"This case is nowhere near over. This is just a step in taking another step if you will," Weatherford said. We've said that all along. We just want to get closure to the family. … We want to make sure there is some time of closure for them."

All four suspects were all taken into custody and were transported to the Tyler County Jail Tuesday. They were each charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, which is a first-degree felony. Their bond has been set at $1 million each.

Weatherford explained that Tyler County authorities felt "very comfortable" with where they were in the investigation when they presented the evidence to a grand jury Tuesday. Immediately after the grand jury handed down felony indictments on the four suspects, deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff's Office went the residence of Paul and Letha Westfall, which is located near Colmesneil, to serve arrest warrants on the four suspects.

"They were not home at the time," Weatherford said. "It appeared they had left in a hurry. There was a small grass fire, you know burning leaves, in their yard."

Weatherford said they were on Recreational Road 255 near the Mt. Carmel Road when they noticed a vehicle turn on Mt. Carmel Road. Thinking it may be the Westfalls' vehicle, Weatherford got confirmation from the TCSO dispatch and made a traffic stop on the vehicle.

"I initiated a traffic stop on this vehicle and it just so happens that they turned into the Mount Carmel Baptist church parking lot … the same place is back where we began on Jan. 18 where these horrific murders took place," Weatherford said.

Later, Weatherford said the case started at the church, and in some ways, ended at the same place.  He described it as "poetic justice."

The four suspects appeared in front of a Tyler County magistrate Wednesday morning. Weatherford said they were advised of their rights and were able to request legal counsel.

"These are felony ones," Weatherford said. "They carry life without the possibility of parole. And you know we considered these subjects, these individuals to be dangerous."

Weatherford said he was happy with the indictments for engaging in organized criminal activity.

"From a law enforcement standpoint we're very happy at this point and in no way are we through," Weatherford said.  "We're not wrapping up and closing shop on this case we're just from our standpoint we're just getting started again. But this is a step that needed to be taken. These individuals did not need to be out in our community. We consider them dangerous."

The Tyler County sheriff said they believe the evidence they have gathered in this case is "overwhelming."

The text of the indictments stated that the four suspects "collaborated in carrying on the hereinafter described criminal activity, conspire to commit the offense of murder of two individuals by agreeing with each other that they would engage in conduct that constituted said offense."

In addition, the indictments said the Westfalls "performed an overt act in pursuance to-wit: the planning, surveillance and carrying out of the January 18 incident."

In a previous story, Ryan said the organized criminal activity charges are enhanced because that activity led to the deaths of two people. He also said that these charges do not rule out the possibility that murder charges could be added at a later date. If convicted, each of the four family members could face up to life in prison without parole.

The family of Nathan and Krystal said that the emotions of Tuesday were like a roller coaster, but faith and family kept them holding out hope.

"Our faith has been our foundation through this whole thing and realizing that without him in it is just a human search," Nathan's father, Jim Maddox said.

In late February, Letha Westfall, 54, was arrested on a possession of a controlled substance by fraud charge on Feb. 27. However, the charge was dropped, and she was released from the Tyler County Jail the next day.

Letha I. Westfall, 54, was scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 28. However, Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford said the arraignment was canceled after the Jasper Police charge against her was dropped.

Officials with the Jasper Police Department referred comment to the Jasper County District Attorney's Office. Nobody at the DA's office was available for comment when East Texas News called in late February.

At that time, Ryan confirmed Westfall is a suspect in the Jan. 18 deaths of Nathan and Krystal Maddox.

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