Jury finds Zavalla man who threatened wife, brought gun to courthouse guilty

Preston Moody (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Preston Moody (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury found the 46-year-old Zavalla man who allegedly attacked his wife during an 2013 argument and later brought a gun to the courthouse guilty of assault-family violence and retaliation Tuesday afternoon.

Preston Robert Moody's trial is being held in Judge Barry Bryan's 217th Judicial District Court. The sentencing phase of the trial is set to start Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

The incident happened on June 1, 2013. Moody was arrested for that incident on June 7, according to the Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace office. According to the complaint, Moody's wife told Angelina County Sheriff's Office deputies that when she came home that day, her husband accused her of sleeping with his cousin and made her leave their home.

While Moody's wife put two of their three children in her car, Moody "jumped off the porch and ran to the vehicle. He opened the driver's side door and grabbed [his wife] by the hair and around the neck trying to pull her from the vehicle," the complaint stated.

During the scuffle, the wife's foot slipped and hit the accelerator causing the vehicle to hit a tree. At that point, the couple's children were screaming and Moody grabbed "his wife around the neck."

The complaint stated Moody's wife advised deputies she fears for her and her children's lives and that

Moody had been threatening and abusing her for the past 10 years.

Moody was arrested and charged with assault-family violence with a previous conviction. He posted a $10,000 bail and was released later that day. His wife filed a protective order against him.

On Tuesday, the state called Sammy Bratton, a deputy with the ACSO, to the stand. Bratton was the deputy who responded to the Zavalla residence on June 1. He said Moody's wife, Kasey, was incredibly distraught, and/or "excited" when he showed up to the residence, meaning she was crying and shaking.

"She said she and her husband had got into an argument. He had asked her to leave. During the process of leaving, he had restrained her in the vehicle causing her to hit the house and a tree with her kids in the vehicle," Bratton said.

He said Kasey told him her husband choked her and hit her in the back. Bratton said Kasey told him their neighbor, Delores Hodges, came over to see what the noise was, and that's when Preston Moody threatened the neighbor saying he was going to "kill her."

Bratton said Kasey had bruising and discoloration of her skin on her back/neck.

Hodges said she was asleep that evening when she heard a loud bang and children screaming.

"When I looked around the corner, I observed [Preston Moody] was over her in the truck and [Kasey Moody] was screaming 'help me, he's going to kill me and my kids,'" Hodges said.

She said the kids were screaming "please, don't hurt my mom." She said she screamed six times and that's when Preston Moody looked around at her. Kasey Moody grabbed the children and ran towards Hodges saying "Please help me. He's going to kill us all."

Hodges said she heard Preston Moody tell his wife that she better get rid of [Hodges]. Hodges said she took Kasey and the two children into her home and they called 911. She said Kasey was "hysterical."

Hodges said she is "nervous," and "scared," and tried to keep tears from spilling down her face several times during her testimony

Kasey Moody, 27, told the jury she was supposed to take a trip with her kids for a Crawfish Boil at Preston Moody's brother's home in Pineland.

She said Preston Moody was supposed to go with them, but decided that he didn't want to go and said she couldn't take the kids, ages 9, 7, and 2. She says Preston Moody had accused her of sleeping with his cousin, and his cousin was going to be at the party.

She said when he realized she had two of their children, Preston Moody became very angry. While in the process of backing up the car, Kasey Moody hit their trailer. She says Preston Moody came around to the driver's side, and that's when she put the car in drive. She testified that Preston Moody tried to put the truck in park and was wrestling with her for the keys. That's when she accelerated the vehicle and crashed into the tree.

Kasey Moody  said her husband grabbed her by the neck while he was trying to climb into the car to get the keys.

"At that point, he attempted to choke me," Kasey Moody said. "My little boy got hurt trying to help me."

She said her eldest son was standing on the porch, and when he saw his dad try to take his mom out of the truck, that's when he came over. She said he just got his finger stuck in the door.

The crash into the tree caused strain on her body, Kasey Moody said. She also said her husband caused bruises to her back during the scuffle. She said he left red marks around her neck, but those marks didn't leave any bruising.

She told the jury he told her to get rid of Delores Hodges, and threatened that if she called the police that he "would take care of it." She clarified this saying "normally when he says he's taking care of it, that mean's kill me."

"I was very scared," Kasey Moody said.

Al Charanza, the attorney for Preston Moody, asked Kasey about a surgery Preston had months prior. Kasey noted that her husband did have a neck injury from a work injury several years ago. She said he had surgery in May and still had stitches on the day of the incident.

Charanza asked her if it was true that some of Preston's medicines had gone missing, and that she had taken them.

Kasey Moody said her husband accuses her of things like that all the time, but said it is true he accused her of taking his medication. But she says the biggest argument was the fact that he accused her of sleeping with his cousin

The couple's ten-year-old son testified through a closed-circuit television in a different room.

"My mom was going to leave but my dad was fussing at her. She got in the truck and she started backing up, and my dad opened the door and tugged the steering wheel and she hit the trailer and the tree and everything else," he said.

He admitted he couldn't see or hear everything that was going on.

He said his dad screamed "get her out of here," when the neighbor showed up. The boy said his mom, his little brother, and sister went over to their neighbor's house, and he stayed with his dad.

"I knew my dad was going to be mad at me and was going to whoop me," he said after Charanza asked him why he stayed with his dad.

He said he heard his dad say he was going to shoot the police if his mom called them.

The couple's 8-year-old daughter said her "daddy ran outside and tried to yank the keys out of Mom's truck."

She said her dad opened the door, and made "Momma hit the house and the tree."

The little girl told the jury that she was in the backseat of the truck, and her dad was pulling her mom's hair and yanking her mom's arm. She said her mom was crying, "Stop!"

She said her dad yelled to Hodges that she better not call the law because he was going to shoot all of them.

Preston Moody's daughter said her dad yanked her older brother off the porch and then threw him into the truck.

She said she's heard her dad yell at her mom before saying that she had stolen his medication for his neck injury.​

After the state rested, the defense called Preston Moody to the stand.

Preston Moody said on June 1, his medicine was missing, and he was concerned because he had to have it since he had just gotten neck surgery.

"They came up missing quite often. When I would come up for my bottle, there would be just a few left," Preston Moody said.

He said he then started "griping" at his wife because he knows she was taking his medicine because "her speech was already slurring that day."

He said he thought she was planning to pack for their overnight trip at his brother's, but he found out that she was packing to move out of their house and take his children.

He said it make him feel "sick." He said his wife was slurring her speech, so he tried to remove the keys out of the truck. He said he went outside, saw the truck was turned on, and tried to turn the truck off.

He said he opened the driver's door, reached over, and tried to take the keys out of the ignition. He says his wife was no longer in the driver's seat, but was in the passenger side seat. Preston Moody said this happened after she had already backed into the trailer.

He said Hodges came over and started hollering, "Will you stop it for the kids?" But he denied ever assaulting his wife.

"I still loved her. I didn't want her to get hurt," Preston Moody said.

Preston says he believes his wife took 7 or 8 Xanax pills the day of the incident. He says the allegations that he pulled his wife's hair are untrue. He also said he never said he would shoot the police.

After the fight, he said he took his eldest son to a camping spot, and they stayed there and talked for about 45 minutes. They then went home.

Elmer Beckworth Jr. asked him if he hadn't assaulted his wife, why she would feel compelled to call the police. Preston said, "That's the way she keeps my kids."

As far as his kids are concerned, he said his kids are very true and honest, except they can be "coaxed."

The defense rested shortly after Preston Moody's testimony.

During a July 2013 custody hearing, Moody was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful carrying of a firearm after he allegedly showed up to the courthouse with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol in his vehicle.

Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches told KTRE News last July the custody hearing never occurred because Moody allegedly called in a death threat to his wife. Sanches said he increased security at the courthouse by placing deputies and outside the courthouse in anticipation of Moody's arrival.

Sanches said according to Texas law, individuals with prior assault-family violence charges are not allowed to carry firearms even if those convictions are for misdemeanor charge.

In a previous story, it said when Moody arrived at the courthouse, he went over to his attorney's office and came back outside to his vehicle. At that point, ASCO Lt. Pete Maskunas stopped Moody and asked for consent to search his vehicle, in which Moody declined.

But, because of previous threats Moody had made against his wife, authorities were able to obtain a search warrant for his vehicle. Moody was then arrested and transported to the Angelina County jail.

On July 3, Moody was arrested for aggravated kidnapping on July 3.

According to another complaint, on June 24 Moody texted his son and told him to ask his mother to come by and get some money for her and the kids. When his wife arrived, he allegedly started cursing and screaming at her. He then took out a .22-caliber rifle from his wife's vehicle, grabbed her arm, and dragged her into his home, the affidavit stated.

Once inside the home, Moody allegedly emptied out her purse because he was looking for her cell phone. When he couldn't find the phone, he reportedly fired two shots in the kitchen "causing her to fear for her life."

Moody then grabbed his wife and forced her into the bathroom, pulled out a pocket knife and held it to her stomach. The complaint stated Moody told her that he would kill her if she didn't get their kids into the truck.

Under duress, she put their kids in the vehicle and was forced to ride with Moody in the vehicle to San Augustine County where another assault allegedly took place.

Moody was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping on July 3. Three days later, he posted a $75,000 bail and was released.

According Angelina County court records, Moody was first convicted on a misdemeanor assault-family violence charge in 2002. He was given one year of probation for the charge. After a second assault-family violence arrest in 2004, the charge was upgraded to a third-degree felony, and he pleaded guilty to that charge on March 19, 2007.

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