LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The sentencing of Warren Lewis continued Wednesday morning.
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 first witness to take the stand was Angelina County Probation Officer Mark French. French conducted a prior pre sentence investigation for a court case in 2002. French said the case involved him not stopping for police and running in his vehicle.
Marvin Marzette, Carter's brother, then told prosecutor Sandra Martin that he last saw his brother in May of 2016. Marzette lives in Jackson, Mississippi where he is a firefighter.
"It is hard felt," Marzette said. "They are close to you."
Marzette said he couldn't sleep when he heard the news. Marzette said Carter is buried in Mississippi next to his mother.
"He was just a big fan of music," Marzette said. "My fondest memory is just hanging out with him, grilling with him and talking with him."
Marzette said his comfort has been talking to his other brother and sister and talking with his wife. Marzette was asked if this would be closure:
"I would not say closure," Marzette said. "I don't want to forget about him. I just want to move on."
The state then rested, and the defense started calling its witnesses to the stand.
Sheila Yarborough, Lewis' mother, then talked about her son.
Yarborough said her son would play music for churches at services and conventions. Yarborough said that he also once worked at Texas Foundries and Texas Signature Foods. Yarborough said after she started a ministry in Tyler in 2006, her son joined her. She said that was right after he got out of prison for the evading arrest charge.
Yarborough said in 2008, Lewis moved in with Sherry Morrow who had two girls.
"She was working and going to school, so he was at home taking care of those two beautiful girls," Yarborough said.
"My son is a very caring person," Yarborough said. "He is my only son . He loves music. He is a very talented person. He was raised in a Christian home. He loved to go to church. He was saved and filled with the Holy Ghost at the age of eight. He has anointed hands."
Yarborough said she cried when she heard about what happened.
"I hurt. I had compassion for someone else's son," Yarborough said. "It was sad."
Yarborough said that she was called by Lewis after he shot Carter, and she picked him up. Yarborough said she picked him up and called her pastor to get advice. After that, she she said, her pastor picked them up and took them both to the jail. Yarborough said her son showed remorse in jail.
"I went to visit him, and he said, 'Momma, I'm sorry,'" Yarborough said. "I said, 'Baby, God is a forgiving God.'"
Martin then brought up an incident in 2001, where Yarborough's daughter took Lewis' keys because she was worried he might drive while drunk and that Lewis slapped her on both sides of the face.
Yarborough said she did not recall the details and that she did not believe the police report was accurate that she was on Lewis' back trying to separate the two.
"I don't know where that came from, but that is not true," Yarborough said.
Martin brought up a 2004 injury to an elderly case, and Yarborough quickly said it is not true. Yarborough said she could not remember the part in the report where Lewis came in under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that he said, "I'm going to fight someone." Yarborough said that it was also not true that Lewis got agitated after being told to turn down his music and then put an elderly family member in a head lock.
Yarborough told defense attorney AL Charanza that her son and daughter have a good relationship.
Yarborough told Martin that if her son was killed, she would want justice.
The next witness was Bishop James Coutee. Coutee said he has known Lewis since he was around 8 years old. Coutee also said he was a member of the church and a musician.
Coutee did not know Lewis had shot someone until he was called. He said he went to their home, and then a decision was made to go to the jail.
"I said, 'If I am going to help you then this is what I want you to do, I want you to stay there,'" Coutee said. "'I am going to come to your house, and I am going to wrap my arms around you and take you to my car, and I am going to walk you to my truck and take you to the sheriff's office.'"
Coutee said he could not have imagined that Lewis was capable of killing someone.
"I could not … In my wildest… I just could not ever. He just doesn't have that," Coutee said. "Maybe we all do deep down, but you have to go real deep to get it in Warren."
Coutee said he still does not understand what brought Lewis to the point where he shot Carter.
"He might have done this, but I can tell you that Warren is not who you think he is," Coutee said.
LaChassity Robertson lives at the Lotus Lane Apartments and has known Lewis her whole life.
Charanza then brought up Lewis' nickname, "Pookie," and she said that's how she knows him. Charanza called Lewis Pookie while he talked to her.
Robertson said Lewis shot Carter in front of her door and started crying.
"That's my baby, I grew up with him," Robertson said. "He just liked to keep you smiling and happy."
Lewis' wife, Sherry Morrow, then talked about her relationship with Lewis. Morrow used to have a relationship with Carter, and she said that there was an ongoing conflict with the two. She recalled one incident on an Easter weekend before he moved to Tyler.
Morrow said that on the Sunday in question they were outside their apartment, and she claimed Carter came up and stared yelling at her and cussing because she would not answer her phone.
"He was mad and upset towards something," Morrow said. "It was for 15 minutes. I walked over and asked what was wrong. He said it was the girls because they would not say anything to him. I told them that that was their dad and they need to show some respect."
Morrow said the girls do not have much of a relationship with Carter, but she did try to encourage it.
Morrow said that there was a heated argument between Carter and Lewis that was filled with profanity.
"I know they have there problems, but it did surprise me," Morrow said.
Morrow said that Carter had pulled out a knife before and threatened to kill him. Morrow also told Martin that she did not know that Lewis had a gun on him.
A video was shown in court from Lufkin police that has an officer asking Morrow where the gun that Lewis used was. Morrow claimed she did not know. The video continued, and the officer eventually found a gun in a lock box in a bedroom.
Lewis then took the stand and said that he lived at several places with Morrow and that he would only see Carter when he would come towards their home.
Lewis said he loves Murrow's daughter like they were his own. Lewis then described what happened on the Sunday night he shot Carter.
"I got back from driving my friend, and I saw him outside," Lewis said. "I had not seen him for awhile, so I went over there to talk. It was a normal conversation."
Lewis said he left and then went back to his house and went to the store.
"It was night, and I was told during that time B.C. came to my house," Lewis said. "I was told he was saying things to Cherry."
Lewis said it upset him about what was said to her upset him.
"I was worried because if I go over there what would happen, but I was upset about what happened to Sherry," Lewis said. "So I went in my home, and I grabbed my pistol because he was known to carry knives. I was afraid. I was concerned."
Lewis said their conversation still got heated.
"He said I don't have a job, and I can't work and provide for my family," Lewis said. "It made me feel like less than a man."
Lewis said the conversation got heated and Carter came towards him more on his side of the truck they were standing by.
"He was leaning into me, and then I saw his hand drop and that's when I shot him. I thought he was going for a knife. I shot five shots. Two hit the truck and three hit him."
Lewis said he walked away and went back home and called family to say what he had done and was going to turn himself in. He added that he was nervous.
Lewis agreed with Martin that he murdered Carter. He also said he did not remember a jail call or interview where he said he wasn't afraid at the time.
Martin then brought up how he talked with Detective Abbott from Lufkin Police.
Lewis agreed that he used profanity to describe Carter and that he was angry at what happened.
Martin then brought up that Lewis said he was not threatening him; he was just bad mouthing him. Lewis agreed.
Lewis told Charanza that he had the gun because he was concerned over Carter's past actions.
"I was not proud about it," Lewis said. "The prosecutor might make it seem that way, but I am not."
The defense then rested.
In closing remarks, Martin told the jury it was not a crime of passion.
"He went and loaded the gun before he went down there," Martin said. "He said he did not feel threatened. He felt bad mouthed. It had to be other things that lead up to this."
"I have a whole family that cannot see Carter anymore," Martin said. "They aren't going to get to see him."
Martin told the jury that self-defense does not work in this case and it does not seem right that he would shoot the truck first and then Carter.
"He might have been sorry in front of the pastor, but he wasn't before or after and you heard him," Martin said.
Martin pointed out that Lewis did not care about all the people that were around when he shot.
Charanza said the evidence and things that led up to the murder is important in crimes of passion.
"I believe we have given you the burden of proof," Charanza said. "I look back at what Bishop Coutee said. Not Warren. Not this guy."
Charanza pointed that some kind of passion had to happen to provoke him to do this.
"He took pride in raising these girls," Charanza said.
Charanza pointed out how Carter got in Lewis' face several times and degraded him.
"We want 30 years at the minimum," Martin said. "I really just want to grab this gun and point it at Lewis and go pop pop pop, but I can't because it would alarm everyone. I want you to get him out of the community for a long time."