LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has found the Zavalla man who was accused in the 2015 stabbing death of Jesse Keller not guilty.
Tommy Lee Granger, 29, appeared in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court for a retrial on a first-degree murder charge. Back in September, an Angelina County jury deadlocked on a verdict, and Inselmann declared a mistrial.
The jury started deliberating on their verdict at 8:45 a.m. Thursday. They reached their verdict at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, and they found Granger not guilty of first-degree murder or manslaughter.
Thursday marked the fourth day of Granger's jury trial. Granger's defense attorney argued that his client stabbed Keller in self defense.
Back in July of 2015, Captain Alton Lenderman said the stabbing took place on Keely Road in the Zavalla area.
Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches said Keller went into an area of homes commonly referred to as "the compound" and got into an argument with Granger, which led to a physical fight. Sanches said Granger admitted to stabbing Keller in the chest.
Many people filled the courtroom during both trials in support of both the victim Jesse Keller, and Granger. This resulted in the verdict being met with mixed emotions.
Speaking on behalf of Granger who chose not to make a statement, his attorney Al Charanza said no matter the decision made today, he will have to live with this the rest of his life.
"There really is no win in these type of cases because Tommy Granger will carry this death of Jesse Keller the rest of his life, and he is very remorseful for the actions that took place," Charanza said. "But he was only defending himself, and the law provides he has the inherent right of self-defense."
Granger's grandmother said although today was a good day for their family, who feel justice has been served, her heart goes out to those that lost their loved ones.
"We sympathize with that family, and we have been praying for them," she said.
Immediately following that verdict, Judge Inselmann opened up a conversation about drug abuse in the Zavalla area, saying substance use weighed heavily in the actions that occurred the night of the stabbing. Several witnesses that took the stand for the defense admitted to having either been high on drugs the night of the stabbing, or having had a past problem with meth.
"How many families here have been torn apart by the usage of drugs? A lot. So, it's either we're going to do something about it, or you are going to watch the next generation go down the tubes," Inselmann said.
He urged those wanting to make a difference to contact his office. Many in the courtroom spoke up about the struggle and problems in the area. One said they feel they are not getting the help they need from law enforcement.
"Come to my office, and we will discuss all of these issues," Inselmann said.
Many in the courtroom feel eradicating the drug problem in Deep East Texas will prevent things like this from happening to anyone else.