Murder trial begins for man accused in Angelina County nightclub shooting death

Murder trial begins for man accused in Angelina County nightclub shooting death
Terry Criswell (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Monday marked the first day of testimony in the murder trial of the Lufkin man accused of shooting and killing Kevin Moore at the Annie Mae's nightclub in the Cedar grove community on Nov. 15, 2015.

The trial for Terry Christopher "Chris" Criswell, 32, is being held in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court.

The state's opening remarks took the jury through the night of Moore's death at the Annie Mae's nightclub in the Cedar Grove community.

District Attorney Art Bauereiss began and said after Moore was shot, he walked out of the nightclub and got into the car of a woman who took him to Woodland Heights hospital where he was pronounced dead.  The state said the Criswell was found to in Tyler, Texas at the home of family related to both Moore and Criswell after the shooting.

"He ironically went to a home related to both and there are several witnesses that said he was pretty tight-lipped, but he did tell Rhonda Shankle that she needed to get rid of a gun," Bauereiss said. "They all knew he was a suspect in the death of Moore."

Bauereiss said scientists and witnesses will explain their findings and added he doubts the full story will come to light.

"What is the motive? I expect we will find there was a disturbance at another nightclub months before, but where Moore was accused of being aggressive, but we may never know if that is true," Bauereiss said.

John Peralta, Criswell's defense attorney, asked the jury to judge their findings based on substantial evidence and questioned the number of witnesses taking the stand.

"May we remember that sometimes it is not quantity of those speaking but the quality of what they are saying," Peralta said. "I think you will find that this case does not have substantial evidence that my client fired that gun."

He also questioned the number of guns fired and the lack of evidence with missing shell casings and the murder weapon itself.

"Their story is anything but solid," Peralta said.

The first witness, a forensic scientist that performed an autopsy on Moore's body, concluded that Moore was shot five times - one above the navel, one that entered the stomach on his left side, another on his upper arm, a fourth that went through his back and hit his heart, and a final shot that went through his upper back.

"The victim appeared to be moving away from the shooter and possibly leaning forward, and we determined his death to be two lethal gunshot wounds one to the abdomen and one to the back," the forensic scientist said.

Traces of alcohol, methamphetamine, and marijuana were also found in the victim's body.

The defense questioned the fact that three shell casings weren't recovered at the scene and noted the difference in bullets found in the victim could have possibly been from two separate guns.

"So you can't say the same gun was used to shoot him? Two different bullets and two different brands of ammunition and the other three cannot be traced back to the same gun because they were never recovered?" Peralta said.

Tracy McKelvey took the stand next and said she saw Criswell with a gun the night of the shooting while she attended the club Annie Mae's.

"I was standing off from the dance floor and they approached me. Chris and Willie approached me. Some music came on, and when he started dancing, his shirt came up, and I saw the butt of the gun," McKelvey said.

She said she told Criswell to hide the gun better if he was going to bring it to a club.

"Excuse my language, but I said, 'If you're going to bring a [expletive] gun to the club, at least keep it covered,'" McKelvey said.

She said knew Moore for his nickname, "Bo Peep," and knew both Criswell and Moore off and on for years. She said she arrived and was leaving with her twin sister when shots rang out.

"He was walking out a couple of feet in front of me, and that's when I heard the first shot and that's when I saw Criswell shooting out in the club," McKelvey said. "He was shooting at Bo Peep running toward the street. I just heard multiple shots going off."

Peralta's cross-examination brought up the discrepancies within McKevley's statements from the night of the shooting up until today.

"I may have had the location of where they were standing when I saw the gun wrong. I said he was across the dance floor, but he was on our side, and I said I left with my boyfriend, but I didn't I left with my twin sister," McKelvey said.

The defense questioned whether McKelvey actually saw Criswell shooting at Moore.

"I don't know. I did glance that way, but I was in shock," McKelvey said.

Peralta questioned if the witness was aware of a previous fight that may have taken place at another nightclub, but she said she was not aware of this.

McKevley is still being questioned on the stand.

Prosecuting for the state following recess and for the remainder of the trial is Sandra Martin.

The first witness to testify following the break was Casey Olford, who took the stand and recalled the events she saw the night of the shooting which she stated happened within 10 minutes of the nightclub closing.

“Me and Yazmin came out of the club about 2:30, and we saw Bo Peep standing by the door and we asked him why we hadn’t seen him in a while,” the witness said. “He told us he was trying to stay low key, and out of the way.”

 She said she saw a gray truck pull up behind the victim’s car, and as she was talking to Moore, the people inside called both she and her friend to the car. She identified the men they talked to as Kevin Jefferson, Willie Sr., and a man named Melvin and later said she heard the men were cousins.

“I heard a shot fired, so I looked to my right, and then I heard more gun shots, and then I saw Bo Peep grab his stomach and start running through the grass,” Olford said.

 She was standing within arms distance talking to the victim and said the gun was still firing as he ran and climbed into a black car.

“I saw Mr. Criswell climb into a white car and drive out, but I was in a state of shock. I just tried to stay aware of my surroundings but I kept hearing gun shots,” Olford said.

She said another man named Robert Taylor was firing a gun as the victim and defendant were driving away.

Moore then brought up a conversation the witness had with the defendant previously in the night, and Olford accurately identified the person saying that as being in the courtroom.

“He came up and told me, ‘I’m about to show this [expletive] something,’ and that’s when I put it together that the same person that said that was also shooting the gun,” Olford said.

In the cross examination, Peralta asked the witness if she was still serving time for an endangering a child charge she was convicted of in the past. The witness said she was and also explained that she had known Moore for several years before the time of the shooting.

Olford was asked to explain the way the shooter was positioned at the time shots rang out.

 I was standing about two feet away from him, I never saw the first shot, but I heard all the other shots after that,” Olford said. “The shots were coming from the side, I think, almost at an angle.”

 Peralta then questioned the remarks the witness made following the events of the evening the night of Nov. 15th.

"Do you remember telling officers that Terry pulled up to the club in a white car, got out of that car, and shot Moore?" Peralta said.

The witness said she did not remember making that statement and could not remember the color of the car.

Peralta then showed the witness a statement she wrote following the shooting and asked her if she was honest when writing that statement. She said she was honest.

“So you are testifying something different today than what you wrote following the shooting that night?” Peralta asked.

Yazmin Phipps, Olfords’ best friend, told the jury what she saw the night of the shooting.

“A group of guys called Casey and I over to talk. After that, I heard shots fired, and I left to try and find him. After the shooting happened, everyone took off running, and I drove to the hospital,” Phipps said.

Phipps said after she learned her friend was killed the sheriff showed her a picture of the suspect and she recognized him as the man who she heard making threatening remarks earlier in the evening. 

During the cross examination Peralta asked the details of when Phipps drove off from the club in the victims’ car. She said she picked up his cousin and drove to another hospital.

“So there has been a shooting right by the passenger door of that car? Did you not think that when you drove off and then later gave that car to the wife of the victim that the car should have been entered into evidence?” Peralta said.

She said she had thought about his before leaving with the car. She was asked to recall how many shots she heard, and that amount differed from the number given after the night of the shooting. The court has recessed and will return at 2:35 p.m.

Kayla Warren was the first witness to take the stand after the recess. She said she had been in an open relationship with Moore off and on for several years despite his marriage. She also said he could sometimes be aggressive.

“One time, he did bust my lip because I had other male friends even though he was married and could be with other people, I couldn’t, and I got tired of it,” Warren said

She admitted that he had said he was fearful of others but did not elaborate why.

“He did tell me he was afraid. He said he felt like a lot of people were after him,” Warren said.

The state asked her to explain what she saw that night of the shooting, and she said she specifically heard nine shots. Watching from her car in the parking lot she said she saw Criswell walk into the parking lot.

“When he walked over, I knew it was him by the side of his face, and I knew Bo Peep saw him but didn’t want to be confronted,” Warren said. “That’s when I heard shots, and I saw Bo Peep had slumped over, and then I just saw Chris walk off.”

The state questioned an incident that happened at Landsey’s nightclub several months before.

“From my knowledge, I was told of an incident where Chris got jumped and that’s the reason behind all of this, behind Chris killing Bo Peep,” Warren said. 

The state asked if she had actually witnessed him being jumped, but she said several people told her this happened. She also named several men involved in this incident.

In cross examination, Peralta asked her to elaborate what exactly she saw from her car in the parking lot the night of the shooting.

“Do you remember writing in your own handwriting, ‘Chris for sure shot nine shots, and also telling police that you heard yelling and screaming?’” Peralta asked.

She said all nine shots were heard all at once, but did not remember saying she heard the screaming and yelling. She also said she drove Robert Taylor 
Bo Peep told me he was mad because he called him a snitch.

The next witness that took the stand said she was celebrating her birthday the night of the shooting and was driving the car that Moore got into moments after he was shot.

“It was such a quiet night, it seemed like nothing was going on, and then all of a sudden I saw someone get in front of my car and start waving his hands,” Andrea Garrett said. “I said, “Bo Peep, what is wrong?’ and then he said ‘I was just shot’, and I just took off.”

During her emotional testimony, she recalled what would be the final words of Kevin Moore’s life.

“I kept telling him to ‘shut the door, shut the door,’ and then I heard him take a deep breath and just slump over. That’s when I realized he wasn’t responsive,” Garrett said.

The next witness that took the stand was with Criswell after the shooting, and when she found out that he was a suspect for murder in connection to the death of Kevin Moore, she was shocked, she said. 

“I couldn’t believe it, and he started talking about needing a lawyer,” the witness said. “He then said something about Rhonda Shankle, and if he got rid of the gun, there wouldn’t be any proof, and then said he didn’t even mean to kill him.”

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