LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A 26-year-old Huntington man accepted a plea bargain deal of 25 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison on Monday for slashing a Lufkin woman's throat after he gave her a ride in September 2012.
Jeremy Chad Ayers appeared in front of County Court-at-Law 1 Judge Bob Inselmann, who was filling in for Judge Barry Bryan in the 217th Judicial District courtroom. He pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony charge of aggravated kidnapping.
Ayers accepted the plea bargain deal on the morning that his jury trial was scheduled to begin.
After accepting the plea, Ayers asked to be transported to the prison system as quickly as possible.
"They've had him in separation for 16 months, so he's been in our county jail without contact with other people, so he's ready to get out," said Defense Attorney Ryan Deaton.
The arrest affidavit stated that Angelina County Sheriff's Office deputies went to 160 Pine Island Road in Angelina County in response to a call about a possible aggravated assault victim. When the officers arrived on the scene, they found the victim lying on the ground. She had obvious knife wounds on her throat, her neck, and the left side of her chest.
The victim told the ACSO deputies that she was out walking when she caught a ride from an unknown man driving a red pickup, the affidavit stated. At the scene, the witnesses who found the victim gave the deputies a description of the truck, along with the white male who was driving and the woman riding with him.
When interviewed by investigators, the victim picked the suspect out of a photo lineup containing five other men with similar facial characteristics, stating that Ayers was the man who cut her neck and throat, the affidavit stated. The woman told detectives that she was out walking when Ayers picked her up, and they drove west on Highway 103 West before they wound up on Pine Island Road, according to Layne Thompson, an assistant prosecutor for Angelina County.
Thompson said Ayers made a sexual proposition to the woman. At one point, Ayers stopped at a house in the area and asked for directions before they drove further down Pine Island Road.
In a previous East Texas News story, Capt. Allen Hill of the Angelina County Sheriff's Office said that Hill and the woman drove around drinking beer for a period of time before Ayers stopped to urinate. Thompson said that Ayers also admitted to taking Xanax the night he attacked the woman.
The victim told investigators that after Ayers got out of his truck to urinate, she heard him rummaging around in the back of the pickup, Thompson said, adding that Ayers told her, "I just dropped something."
Then Ayers reached through the driver's door of the truck, dragged the woman outside by her hair, put his knee on her back, and used a knife to slash her neck and throat and stab her in the chest as she begged for him to stop. According to the affidavit, Ayers then dropped the victim on the ground and drove away in his pickup.
"At one point, she just went limp and started playing dead," Thompson said. Then she had the sense to crawl out of the road because she thought he might come back and try to run her over."
Thompson said the victim could hear the blood gushing out of her neck, and she knew that if she didn't get help, she was going to die. She put her hands to her neck to stop the bleeding and crawled/walked back to the house where Ayers had stopped to get directions earlier that night.
Hill said the victim was lucky to make it to that house.
Thompson said the ACSO investigators did some excellent police work in identifying Ayers. When they talked to the people at the house where he had asked for directions, the witnesses remembered that Ayers had used his real first name when he talked to them. They also remembered that Ayers had been smoking when he talked to them, and as a result, the investigators found cigarette butts near the home that had DNA evidence from Ayers on them.
In addition, Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn did "tape lifts" on the passenger's seat of Ayers' truck, hoping to find trace evidence, Thompson said. The assistant prosecutor said the DNA evidence Rayburn found turned out to be a match to the victim's blood.
After she got out of surgery, the victim told authorities it was a random act of violence, Hill said. She told investigators there that there was no argument or any indication before the assault occurred, and picked Ayers out of a photo lineup.
ACSO deputies picked Ayers up on an arrest warrant some time later and transported him to the Angelina County Jail.
Hill said Ayers denied slashing the woman's throat. According to a previous East Texas News story, Ayers gave no explanation for why he cut the woman's throat other than saying that he doesn't like people or being around them.
When asked why the bond was set at $500,000, Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Billy Ball said that aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge is a serious one. He said he has seen a picture of the victim's injuries, adding, "She's lucky to be alive."