CROCKETT, TX (KTRE) - After deliberating for about 30 minutes, a Houston County jury has found Robert David Mobley Jr. guilty of first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping in connection to the brutal 2015 beating death of of Vanessa Melson Friday afternoon.
The trial is now in the punishment phase. Both the state and the defense rested after the lunch break.
Closing arguments started off with the state's attorney going through the definition of an aggravated kidnapping.
"Each and everyone of those elements, if you believe Brenna Theuer, are proved beyond a reasonable doubt," said Donna Kaspar.
Kaspar recalled the jury to the evidence found at Henderson's property. A hand print and multiple, descending smudges were found in the utility room, where Theuer testified Melston was held against her will.
The defense spent their time on Theuer and how credible her testimony was. McFall focused on Theuer's multiple convictions, including possession of a controlled substance and credit card abuse.
"Do you believe in Brenna Theuer?" said McFall. "She's admitted that she's a thief."
McFall went on to imply that the state was coercing Theuer into painting a guilty picture of Mobley because Theuer was still on probation. He also pointed out that her version of events a few years ago, changed drastically to her testimony on Thursday.
The state came back for the last 25 minutes of arguments to clarify that Theuer's version of events were wrong the first time around because she was being interviewed with James Henderson, who had made her say the things she did.
Earlier Friday, Robert David Mobley Jr. took the stand in his own defense and spoke about what happened the night Melson, a Grapeland resident, died.
Mobley Jr., 41, is on trial for first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping in connection to Vanessa Melson's murder. Her body was found partially buried in a shallow grave.
Colin McFall, Mobley's defense attorney, called his client to the stand Friday morning. His line of questioning focused on what happened during the night from June 16 to June 17 of 2015.
Mobley testified that Vanessa Melson and he were "hanging out" at Melson's father's house. According to Mobley, drugs, such as methamphetamine, marijuana, and a substance called wax, were present, and Vanessa was under the influence of one or more.
"Vanessa was going through something," said Mobley. "She was pretty high. She was tripping a lot. She was seeing things that weren't really there. That was getting me in a frustrating mode because I couldn't snap her out of it."
Mobley testified to leaving the house, but added that he returned, following a conversation that he had with Melson on her father's phone.
At this point, Mobley said that he and Melson started having sex, but Mobley stopped because he could hear Melson's father awake nearby.
The attorney for the state later questioned Mobley regarding this testimony, referring to a video-recorded conversation he had with law enforcement, where Mobley said that Melson's father was not in the house. In court, Friday, Mobley did not recall saying that.
Mobley's recall of the rest of the night's events continued, recounting that Melson was still under the influence of drugs.
"She kept saying, 'If you tell me to do it, I'll do it. Where is it? Where is it?'" said Mobley. "I figured out later that she was trying to rob her father."
Mobley stated that he hit the record button on his cellphone, to record Melson's conversation. The state later questioned him regarding this recording, asking why it wasn't in evidence. Mobley testified that he hadn't had time to look for it.
The state countered by referencing the video-recorded interview with law enforcement, where Mobley said that he had deleted the video. Mobley did not recall this information being said.
Mobley continued his recounting of what happened the night in question, telling the jury that, at this point, he tried leaving to go to his mother's house. Melson, however, wanted to go with him. Mobley said that he wouldn't let her, so she changed her mind and said she wanted to go to James Henderson's house.
Mobley then recalled taking Melson to Henderson's house, where they were met by Brenna Theuer. Mobley said that Brenna Theuer didn't want Melson in the house and turned them away. Mobley drove away with Melson, but returned, saying that Henderson had texted him that he could bring Melson there.
These text messages were not found on Mobley's phone. However, the jury were reminded by the defense that previous testimony from a IT specialist had shown them that text messages deleted from a phone would not be included in the evidence.
According to Mobley, Henderson let both Mobley and Melson onto his property. Soon after, Mobley and Henderson left Melson in the house, while they went outside to a generator. When Mobley returned with Henderson, Melson and Theuer were arguing.
"I heard Brenna saying, 'I don't want her here, I have felony warrants,'" said Mobley. "'You know I have felony warrants. She can't stay here.'"
Mobley then left the residence for his mother's house, where he remained until around 8 a.m. that next morning. Mobley had spoken with Henderson that night about helping Henderson remove a fallen tree from his power line, so Mobley returned to Henderson's house.
According to Mobley, Henderson let him in, but Mobley didn't see Melson or Theuer. He asked Henderson where Melson has gone, and Henderson replied that she had gone back to her father's house. Mobley later left the residence to go back to his mother's house.
The defense then questioned Mobley about his actions the following week, to which Mobley replied that he had gotten a job with MKS Services LLC in Dilly, Texas. He was on a trip to North Carolina for his job when he found out from family members that Melson was missing, and he was known to be the last person with her.
Mobley testified that, when he returned from North Carolina, an Anderson County Sheriff's Office deputy was waiting for him. He said that the deupty told him that the Houston County Sheriff's Office was looking for him.
Mobley also testified that the Anderson County Sheriff's Office deputy asked him the last time that he had seen Melson, to which Mobley replied, that he had seen her last at her father's house. The defense attorney pointed out that this didn't match up with the story that Mobley had just told.
"I don't know," said Mobley. "I'm trying to figure this out myself. In my mind, at this point, I don't know that anything's wrong."
The Anderson County Sheriff's Office deputy asked for Mobley to take his phone down to the Houston County Sheriff's Office, which Mobley testified that he didn't do that day for work reasons.
Mobley went on to tell the jury that he drove straight to Henderson's house, following this encounter with with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office deputy. Mobley wasn't allowed by the judge to say what Henderson told him when he got there, but Mobley stated that Henderson was "very high and rocking back and forth."
The defense asked Mobley if Henderson had said anything incriminating, to which the state objected for leading. The judge sustained the objection. Mobley finished by saying that, whatever Henderson had said, had made him angry enough to leave Henderson.
The state later questioned Mobley on how long it took him to get in contact with the sheriff's office. According to law enforcement reports, more attempts to located Mobley were made before he was brought in for questioning. The state also brought up the question of whether Mobley had told law enforcement about any incriminating information that Henderson had spoken of. Mobley replied that he hadn't.
The defense also questioned Mobley on his recognition of the alleged murder weapon. Mobley testified that he had never seen it.
Brenna Theuer testified on Thursday and stated that she and Melson never got into any verbal arguments, but rather she and Mobley got into a heated argument, where she told him to take his business elsewhere. Theuer said after her fight, she went back into the bedroom, where she heard noises.
"Then I heard Mobley beating that stick (nunchuck) on the wall. The consistency on the wall changed and you could tell it was hitting a person," Theuer said.
Theuer said she tried to call 911, but Henderson took her phone away from her. She said then Henderson left the bedroom, and she heard more screaming and what sounded like Melson trying to leave the laundry room, the place where the alleged beating was taking place.
At one point Theuer came out of the room and saw Mobley holding a stick (nunchuck), and Melson was on the floor.
Theuer then said that she started hearing the beating again, and the noise changed to what sounded like a sexual assault, adding it sounded like Mobley was having sex with Melson. She said a different sound was coming from Melson.
Theuer said that eventually the screaming stopped, which to her seemed to indicate that Melson was no longer breathing.
"I was looking out the bedroom. I saw two area rugs in our garage, and one of the rugs was being put in the back of the truck and it had hair coming out," Theuer said.
Theuer said the truck was a dark Chevy pickup belonging to Mobley. She said at one point Henderson was holding a dirty shovel when he returned around 9 in the morning after she had passed out.