LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The punishment phase for a Lufkin man who pleaded guilty in connection to a fatal shooting that occurred at the Lotus Lane Apartments seven months ago started Tuesday.
Warren Lewis, 39, pleaded guilty to a charge with first-degree felony murder in connection to the shooting death of Billy Carter on the night of September 4, 2016.
The jury heard witness testimony in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court
In her opening remarks, District Attorney Sandra Martin outlined how the events unfolded leading to the shooting death of Billy Carter. The state said Lewis took out the gun and fired five times, hitting Carter three times.
Two of the other bullets struck a white pick-up truck behind where Carter was standing. Martin told the jury that more than 15 law enforcement officers had arrived at the scene that night. Martin told the jury Lewis' character is already an issue.
Al Charanza, Lewis' defense attorney, said there are always two sides of a story. The defense told the jury, in order to understand what led to the shooting, members of his family will help establish Lewis' character. At one point the defense established that there was an on-going eight-year problem that both Lewis and Carter shared.
The first witness to take the stand was Officer Dalton Estes.
Explaining what happened when he arrived at the apartments that night, he said, "I saw a large group of people around the man lying on the ground."
The victim was in dire condition at the time with some blood on his mouth. Estes said he immediately began to look for anyone with a weapon. Moments later, he received a call that a man had turned himself in connection to the shooting.
After Estes arrived at the police station, he confirmed Lewis was in fact the man who turned himself in to authorities. He said Lewis was pretty calm during their interaction.
The second witness to take the stand, Officer Lonnie Dodd, said they heard "a lot of people hollering and screaming." Dodd said he went up to the victim, knelt down, and checked for a pulse. That's when Dodd noticed that Carter had a hole in his shirt. He described what looked like a bullet hole.
Officer Christy Pate, the next witness, who collects evidence for Lufkin Police Department, said she took pictures all the places Carter was shot. In the following days, Pate said she took pictures of the white pickup truck which was involved in the shooting incident looking for bullets. Pate told the jury that she collected two bullets, the gun, and the bullet fragments.
Officer Steve Abbott took the stand next and told the jury that he interviewed Lewis at the police station.
"I interviewed him. I asked him about the shooting. Lewis said, he had gotten back from the store and that some of his friends told him that Carter was talking about Lewis. So Lewis decided he needed to do something," Abbott said.
The Lufkin PD officer said that Lewis didn't seem remorseful. He said that Lewis was pretty matter of fact when explaining the events which unfolded that Sunday night.
The jury then watched the recorded interviewed between Lewis and Abbott. In the recorded interview, Lewis said he was in a relationship with a woman named Sherry Morrow who is Carter's children's mother. Lewis also said he helps with raising the children.
In the afternoon, the jury heard from three witnesses called upon by the state.
Detective John Petty was the investigating officer. At the crime scene, Petty interviewed numerous people who witnessed the shots being fired before finding the revolver that was used to shoot Carter.
During the confession, Lewis said that he had given the gun to his girlfriend. Petty said at first, the girlfriend denied knowing where the gun was, but it was later found during a search.
The next witness was Carter's 22-year-old niece, Niadrai Smith.
"I was standing in front of the door, near the porch, when the shots were fired," Smith said.
Her testimony confirmed previous testimonies that said the arguments quickly intensified.
The owner of the white pick-up truck, Titus Lee, was next to take the stand.
He told the jury, he had a close relationship with Carter. He also said that Lewis is his friend, so it took him by surprise when shots were fired.
Carter's two sisters took the stand next, giving emotional testimony on adjusting to life after his death.
The state will continue to present their evidence on Wednesday at 9 a.m. after wrapping up day one.