Law enforcement witnesses testify at Zavalla man's murder trial

Law enforcement witnesses testify at Zavalla man's murder trial

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - During the second day of testimony in the murder trial of a Zavalla man who is accused of stabbing Jesse Keller to death in May of 2015, an Angelina County Sheriff's Office deputy described the chaos they encountered at the scene of the crime.

Tommy Lee Granger, 28, is being tried for first-degree murder in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217the Judicial District Court. Keller was stabbed to death on May 21, 2015 after he and Granger got into an argument that escalated into a fight, according to the Angelina County Sheriff's Office.

The first witness Tuesday was Ray Stubbs, an ACSO patrol deputy. He was the first deputy on the scene at "the compound."

"Everyone seemed pretty upset; they wanted to get something done," Stubbs said, describing the scene. He told the court what he remembered seeing once he arrived.

Stubbs said he saw a woman performing CPR on Keller. He also said that Keller's wife arrived shortly after the ambulance, and evidence was being taken. Stubbs said it had been misty all day, which makes it more difficult to collect evidence.

The states next witness was Steven Drum, a criminal justice teacher and peace office with the Jasper Police Department. Drum told the court more about the area of homes law enforcement officers refer to as "the compound."

Drum described it as an area that had a lot of criminal activity.

"Based on the set up and location. A lot of activity come to and from that area," Drum said.

Drum said he first got word of the stabbing from a Ronnie Mitchell.

"Based on the history of the compound, I knew it wasn't a safe place for officials to be by themselves," Drum said, explaining his reaction after getting the call.

Drum said once he got word of what happened, he rushed over there.

Ronnie Mitchell left the crime scene, and Drum told him to go back. Drum told the court that Ronnie wasn't there when he arrived, but he was the type of person that was helpful at giving tips about things that happened in the area.

"Ronnie is a person that likes to help everybody. He gives information when things happen," Drums said.

Drum said Ronnie Mitchell told investigators that Granger wasn't trying to fight.

Drums said he wasn't sure if Keller was jealous of Granger.

Later during Tuesday's testimony, Dr. John Wayne, a forensic pathologist from Beaumont, gave graphic details about the three stab wounds found on Keller's body.

Keller's family members and friends became very emotional when pictures of his body were presented to the court.

Wayne explained that two of Keller's stab wounds had small bruises around them that were caused by blunt force trauma. The forensic pathologist said in addition to the stab wounds, Keller's body had several bruises that were caused before he died. The bruises were on Keller's left arm and right leg.

"These bruises are significant to being sustained before death," Wayne said.

Wayne told the jurors that Keller was stabbed between his ribs and near his heart.

"The first stab wound is 8 centimeters and about three in a half," Wayne said. "The second stab wound caused a small fracture to his ribs."

The forensic pathologist said Keller was stabbed twice in the upper abdomen and once in the lower abdomen.

Although methamphetamine was found in Keller's system, Wayne said it was not the cause of his death.

"Wound one and two independently would've caused his death," Wayne said.

Ronnie Mitchell, the next witness, said moments before the stabbing, he was intoxicated in his truck while his son drove. While they were driving, Keller waved them down, so they went to his house, Mitchell said.

"Jesse was in a hurry and wanted to get Rachael's clothes from the compound," Mitchell said.

Keller drove Mitchell's truck to the compound.
When they saw Granger, Keller confronted him, Mitchell said.

"Jesse said, 'Hey boy - I need to talk to you,'" Mitchell said. "He said, "Where's my old lady's clothes?'"

Mitchell said Keller punched Granger in the middle of his sentence. Mitchell recalled Granger mumbling something about Rachael before he was punched.

"I looked down at my door handle to come out, and I saw Tommy pulling the knife out of his chest," Ronnie Mitchell said. "It's upsetting to see something like that. I was like, 'Why?'"

Mitchell said shortly after Keller fell on the ground he began doing CPR on him.

"I told Tommy to get out of here," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he thinks if Granger wasn't able to get out of there, Granger could've died.

Mitchell told the court he left the scene to check on his son and denied ever calling Steve Drum.

He did admit to giving a statement to police.

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