Church member testifies that she heard the gunshots that killed - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Church member testifies that she heard the gunshots that killed Zavalla couple

Kristen Westfall sits in a Brazos County courtroom at her capital murder trial. (Source: KTRE Staff) Kristen Westfall sits in a Brazos County courtroom at her capital murder trial. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Rhonda Humphus, Krystal Maddox's mother, testifies on the stand. (Source: KTRE Staff) Rhonda Humphus, Krystal Maddox's mother, testifies on the stand. (Source: KTRE Staff)
(Source: KTRE Staff) (Source: KTRE Staff)
Pictured are family members of Nathan and Krystal Maddox. (Source: KTRE Staff) Pictured are family members of Nathan and Krystal Maddox. (Source: KTRE Staff)
BRAZOS COUNTY, TX (KTRE) -

During the opening statements at a capital murder trial in Bryan, state prosecutor Samantha Oglesby said that Kristen Westfall had unrelenting hate toward Nathan and Krystal Maddox.

The statement came inside a Brazos County courtroom, two and a half hours west of where the trial was set to take place. Judge Delinda Gibbs-Walker granted state prosecutor Lisa Tanner’s request to have the Tyler County woman’s trial moved to a neutral site in order to have a fair jury.

Westfall is one of three family members charged with capital murder in the killing of her ex-husband Nathan Maddox and his new wife Krystal in January of 2014 outside of a Tyler County church during a custody change.

Westfall’s mother, Letha, and brother, Cameron, accepted plea deals in May. Westfall’s father Paul has not gone to trial yet.

Cameron pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree tampering with evidence. The judge deferred finding of guilt contingent upon him testifying against his family. He faces up to 10 years in prison for each charge. Letha was given a life sentence with parole option after 30 years. Letha will also have to testify if asked. The families of Nathan and Krystal have requested the punishment be life in prison if found guilty and not the death penalty.

In her opening statements, Samantha Oglesby, a prosecutor for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, told the jury that they would hear evidence that Kristen and her father Paul shot Nathan and Krystal outside the Mount Carmel Baptist Church as Nathan was going to visit his four-year old daughter.

“We know custody issues can be messy but it did not have to come to this,” Oglesby said.

Oglesby said the Westfall’s kept Nathan’s daughter isolated, and each time he tried to pick her up, he was met with resistance.

“You will learn the Westfalls discouraged Nathan’s from having a relationship with him,” Oglesby said. “You will learn Nathan was trying to be a good father, but Kristen was not trying to be a good mother. The Westfalls saw the writing on the wall. Nathan was going to be able to get visitation with his child, and he was going to get the child out of isolation. They knew they were going to get custody of this child, and Kristen had to stop it.”

Oglesby said Kristen plotted for months and that she told her family that she had friends that could kill Nathan. Oglesby claimed the Westfall family tried to pay Kristen’s friends and give them money. She stated in October 2013, Nathan and Paul got in an argument and a physical altercation.

“It was in that time that words turned into action,” Oglesby said.

Oglesby claimed that Kristen started to stalk Nathan and Krystal in an attempt to find a place to kill them. She said in December of 2013, a custody hearing was made where the judge ordered a visitation plan that both sides agreed on.

“What you will learn is the Westfalls came up with that place,” Oglesby said. “They recommended their family church.”

Oglesby said the day of the murder Cameron was asked to go to the store and he saw Kristen dressed as a boy and he knew the murder would happen that day.

Oglesby said Paul was armed with a .3030-caliber rifle and Kristen with a shotgun, and they walked through the woods to the church.

“You are going to hear that Paul Westfall shot Krystal in the head as she walked out,” Oglesby said. “You are going to learn that Nathan had to watch his wife die, and then Kristen shot Nathan in the hip by Kristen, and then Paul walked up and shot him in the head.”

Oglesby said Kristen thought she planned the perfect murder.

“What she didn’t expect was for her family not to keep her secret,” Oglesby. “What is better than fingerprints and DNA is her confession to her family. What is better than DNA or fingerprints is her understanding of where Nathan and Krystal would be.”

In their opening statement the defense asked the jury to look at the evidence closely and really listen to the witnesses and think about what they had to gain. The defense argued that a different picture will be painted when they hear the evidence.

Rhonda Humphus began the testimony phase of the trial. Humphus is Krystal Maddox’s mother. Humphus said that Krystal had four children of her own and knew that she and Nathan were trying to establish a relationship with Maddie, Nathan's daughter.

“Krystal had repainted a room for [her daughter] and little Maddie and got two beds for them,” Humphus said. “She made a dream little girl’s room.”

Humphus said Krystal was getting ready for when Nathan's daughter would get to stay with them.

Humphus then described the relationship between Nathan and the Westfalls.

“There was a short time when things went well,” Humphus said. “Then it went back to them trying to block visits and threats of violence.”

Humphus said Krystal and Nathan at that time tried to hire an attorney to help them get visitation and hopefully custody of Nathan’s daughter. Humphus said the frustration Krystal showed soon turned to fear.

“She would talk to me in code so only we knew what was going on,”  Humphus said. “She would send her children in different directions whenever Kristen would come to Zavalla. She said they are going to kill us.”

When prosecutor Lisa Tanner asked who she was talking about, Humphus said, “The Westfalls.”

Humphus said eventually the two were able to hire Lufkin attorney Ryan Deaton. Humphus said they were given a step-up visitation that Nathan tried to enforce since the divorce.

Humphus said Nathan also expressed fear.

“He said they were evil, and they were going to kill him,” Humphus said.

Humphus said when she learned the meeting place for Nathan’s daughter was going to be at the Mount Carmel Church that she was concerned and thought it should be at a public place like the justice center.

“[Krystal] said, ‘It’s a church, mom,’” Humphus said. “What could happen?”

Humphus said at the hearing to set the location of the visitation she saw Kristen on the phone laughing.

“She said, ‘It’s over we got everything we asked for,’” Humphus said.

Humphus said she learned Nathan and Krystal were killed while she was in Florida when she got a phone call from her sister.

Kelly Haggard, Nathan Maddox’s mother then took the stand. Haggard said Nathan and Kristen met in his early 20s, and they were married for about nine years.

Haggard said when Nathan got re-married to Krystal, he wanted more children.

“He always said he wanted 10 children, and I would tell him that he obviously hadn’t had a teenager,” Haggard said. “Krystal and him tried to have a child, and then they both went to the doctor, and Nathan was told he could not have any more children.”

Haggard said that when Nathan would come to family events while he was married to Kristen, he would come alone. Haggard said Kristen or his daughter would not come. Haggard said she would go over sometimes and arguments would happen, so she stopped going.

“I did not want her to be in a single-parent home, and I told Nathan I did not want to be the cause of that,” Haggard said.

Haggard said after Nathan divorced Kristen, Nathan did not get to see his daughter much.

“They were always going out of town,” Haggard said. “Or Paul was in the hospital or it was always some excuse.”

Haggard said when Nathan got re-married, she saw her son more and that he loved Krystal’s children like they were his own.

“When it all first began, he just wanted visitation,” Haggard said. “He just wanted to see her. He just wanted to be in her life.”

Haggard said, eventually, Nathan wanted to get custody.

“Finally, when Kristen wanted another way of life other than motherhood, he wanted her,” Haggard said. “He always wanted her. He just didn’t want to take her from her mother.”

Haggard said Nathan did express fear of the Westfalls.

“He called me and talked to me,” Haggard said. “I thought it was just stress of all of this that was getting to him. I talked to him and told him to talk to someone professional. I never fathomed someone could do this.”

Haggard said it was a Saturday, and she was at home when she heard what happened.

“My mother called me and said she had been to church and passed Mount Carmel on the way home, and there were police out there at the church,” Haggard said.

Haggard said she knew the church was where the visitation was and that she started crying.

“I asked her what happened and she said, ‘I don’t know they won’t let anyone down the road,’ but I knew in my heart what happened,” Haggard said.

Attorney Ryan Deaton then talked about representing Nathan and Krystal Maddox. Deaton works as a family lawyer in Lufkin.

Deaton said Nathan and Krystal made payments to him for his retainer fee. Deaton said after he was paid, he filed a protective order.

“He was doing well for himself,” Deaton said. “He had a job, his wife had a job he just couldn’t some up with the money. We let them pay it out and he did.”

Deaton said filing protective orders is common in his practice. Deaton said on November 7, they filed an answer to the Westfalls wanting custody, a counter petition to custody. Deaton said they amended that filling to say that the Westfalls did not have standing to be in court.

Deaton said the Westfalls only had Nathan’s daughter for two months when they had to have her for six months before they made a motion.

Deaton said when he talks about “the Westfalls” it means Letha, Paul and Kristen.

Deaton said another attorney was also brought in to represent Nathan’s daughter. Deaton said on the day of a hearing, all the sides went to an office in Woodville, and the sides all came to an agreement to visitation.

Deaton said the team also filed a motion to enforce.

“We alleged my client had been declined from meetings from January 2013 to December of 2013,” Deaton said.

Deaton said, in his opinion, Maddie had been brainwashed and was afraid to go with Nathan.

“Because he had not seen this child for so long he needed to build up a relationship,” Deaton said. “It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong; we want the child to feel comfortable around a person she has not seen for a year. These were temporary orders. The fight had just begun. We decided to do a step-up visitation plan and go for custody later on.”

Deaton said the visitation would be increased and changed over a five-step plan with standard visitation taking place by April 2014.

“We are operating on temporary orders, so our plan was to get through the summer and then get a contested hearing,” Deaton said.

Deaton added there was no doubt the Nathan would get custody of his daughter.

Deaton said on Jan.18, 2014, there was a visitation at the church scheduled that was overseen by the church leaders and that Paul and Letha Westfall were not allowed. Deaton said there were three more church visits left before standard visitation happened.

“What I remember is at my office, we all have smartphones and apps connected to KTRE,” Deaton said. “If anything big happens, we all get flash updates.  They all went, ‘ding, ding, ding,’ and yeah… it was horrible.  You say hindsight … yeah, we could have done it somewhere else or done something else. … Who thinks something is going to happen at a church?”

Jerry Adaway, the chairman of the deacons for Mount Carmel Baptist Church describes the church as being out in the woods. Adaway said the church usually has 30 to 40 members, and about 35 show up for services.

Adaway said the Westfalls were members of the church.

“They were good at first and would come on a regular basis, but then they stopped and came once or twice a month,” Adaway said.

Adaway said Cameron was the only one in the family that was a regular member. Adaway said on Jan.18, 2014, he was the first one to arrive at church to cut the tall grass. He said he was there around 8 a.m.

I started mowing, and I saw Paul Westfall running by,” Adaway said. “I didn’t think anything of it because he runs traps [for foxes and other small animals].

He was in a small pickup. It was an older truck.

Adaway said when Westfall stopped, he was the only one at the church.

“Paul was upbeat and seemed fine,” Adaway said. “He was walking to my tractor, and he had a limp but he seemed fine.”

Adaway said the next time Pau Wetsfall came by he stopped and talked to another church worker and then left back to his house.

“That morning around 9, Letha Westfall and Maddie showed up to the church,” Adaway said. “Marie Winters showed up. … She was the moderator of the visitation.”

Adaway said Nathand and Krystal then showed up but he did not remember the time. Adaway said they finished mowing the yard around 11 a.m.

“When we finished brush hogging, we had new flags and were going to replace them on the flagpole,” Adaway said. “I went inside the church around 11 to get some water. They were in the sanctuary visiting. They never came out anymore while we were there.”

Adaway said it was around 12:20 p.m. before he knew something had happened at the church.

“I was devastated,” Adaway said. “It was sad. I went out late that evening. As chairman of the deacons, I went out to make sure everything was okay and then went to the sheriff’s office to make a statement to the Texas Ranger.”

Adaway said the church canceled services that week. He said the next week, services were held and all of the Westfalls including Kristen, were in church. He said it was that way for a few weeks.

Jerry Adaway, the chairman of the deacons for Mount Carmel Baptist Church describes the church as being out in the woods. Adaway said the church usually has 30 to 40 members, and about 35 show up for services.

Adaway said the Westfalls were members of the church.

“They were good at first and would come on a regular basis, but then they stopped and came once or twice a month,” Adaway said.

Adaway said Cameron was the only one in the family that was a regular member. Adaway said on Jan.18, 2014, he was the first one to arrive at church to cut the tall grass. He said he was there around 8 a.m.

I started mowing, and I saw Paul Westfall running by,” Adaway said. “I didn’t think anything of it because he runs traps [for foxes and other small animals]. He was in a small pickup. It was an older truck.

Adaway said when Westfall stopped, he was the only one at the church.

“Paul was upbeat and seemed fine,” Adaway said. “He was walking to my tractor, and he had a limp but he seemed fine.”

Adaway said the next time Paul came by he stopped and talked to another church worker and then left back to his house.

“That morning around 9, Letha Westfall and Maddie showed up to the church,” Adaway said. “Marie Winters showed up. … She was the moderator of the visitation.”

Adaway said Nathan and Krystal then showed up but he did not remember the time. Adaway said they finished mowing the yard around 11 a.m.

“When we finished brush hogging, we had new flags and were going to replace them on the flagpole,” Adaway. “I went inside the church around 11 to get some water. They were in the sanctuary visiting. They never came out anymore while we were there.”

Adaway said it was around 12:20 p.m. before he knew something had happened at the church.

“I was devastated,” Adaway said. “It was sad. I went out late that evening. As chairman of the deacons, I went out to make sure everything was okay and then went to the sheriff’s office to make a statement to the Texas Ranger.”

Adaway said the church canceled services that week. He said the next week, services were held and all of the Westfalls including Kristen, were in church. He said it was that way for a few weeks.

Lifelong Mount Carmel Baptist Church member Vera Marie Winters said she is familiar with all four members of the Westfall family. She said she was a church friend with the family and was asked to help out with custody visits in 2014.

“They asked me to be a moderator, but I call it just sitting there,” Winters said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I didn’t want to know what was going on. If someone at the church needed help, then I would help.”

Winters said on the day of the alleged killings, Letha Westfall arrived at the church before she did. Winters said unlike other visits, Maddie was able to have a good visit with Nathan.

“Nathan brought her a Diet Coke because she said she wanted a white Coke at the last visit,” Winters said. “I think she meant Sprite but Nathan thought diet Coke because of the white bottle. They were able to go on the floor and play with puzzles.”

Winters said Letha Westfall was there on the phone, and she played with the baby some.

“The visitation went over about 10 or 15 minutes,” Winters said. “They were having a good time and playing.”

Winters said when visitation was over, Krystal and Nathan went outside and Nathan held the door as Krystal went down the steps. Winters said Letha did take longer to pick her things up.

“I didn’t think about that because they brought more toys than usual,” Winters said.

Winters said when Nathan and Krystal walked outside she started hearing gun shots. She said Letha and Maddie were in the front pew.

“I yelled to get in the office, and I called 911,” Winters said. “I heard two or three gun shots, then I heard him squeal, then I heard two or three more.”

Winters said the shots were fired quickly and she ran and locked the door. She admitted she did not see what happened but she did see Krystal on the ground. Winters said Letha was incoherent and she had to get on the phone and talk to the 911 operator.

Oglesby then presented a disk with a 911 call on it to the jury. In the call you can hear a voice identified as Letha Westfall screaming for help. The operator asked if someone had been shot and she said she is not sure because of stained glass windows and that she was in the church office with a baby.
A voice identified as Winters said she could see one person lying on the ground outside of the door. Winters said Letha Westfall wanted to go outside to check on the people, but she wouldn’t let her because she didn’t know where the shooter was.

The 911 operator relayed to officers that Krystal was a confirmed victim but was not sure if Nathan was a victim or an actor. Winters quickly spoke up and said she believed Nathan was also a victim even though she could not see him. During the call you can hear Letha Westfall crying in the back ground.
Later on in the call, Winters asked Letha Westfall to “calm down” as Letha Westfall could be heard screaming, "They just walked out the door!”  Winters told the dispatcher that Letha Westfall was on the phone with her family telling them not to come up there.

“We don’t know who is out there,” Letha Westfall said on the phone to her family.  “Kristen, we have her inside, and we are locked inside.”

Winters kept telling the dispatcher that Letha Westfall wants to go outside, but they couldn’t until police get there and say it is okay to. As the call continued, Winters continued to tell Letha Westfall no.

“They’re looking all over for the shooter,” Winters told her.

Winters told Oglesby that it took officers 15 to 20 minutes to arrive. Winters told her that Letha Westfall kept wanting to go outside because she thought she could help. Winters said Maddie was quiet and still “like a statue”.

Winters said when Letha Westfall called her family she could hear Kristen on the phone and Cameron when he got on the phone later to tell him where to look for Paul’s medicine.

Winters told Christine Brown-Zito, Kristen Westfall's defense attorney, that she didn’t say much to Letha Westfall at the beginning because she didn’t have time to. Winters said the whole family would sit in front of her at church, and she felt like she knew them pretty well. Winters said she did not know what kind of vehicle Paul Westfall drove, but she knew what he drove was pretty loud and you could hear it.

“You have to understand. I was a little excited, and I wasn’t listening closely,” Winters said. “I was listening just enough to know if someone was trying to get inside.”

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