Teen Testifies in Sentencing Phase of His Own Murder Trial

Tommy Middleton
Tommy Middleton

An East Texas teenager was sentenced to prison for killing a Polk County woman last April. Tommy Middleton broke down in court while listening to testimony in the sentencing phase of his murder trial.

It only took 45 minutes for jurors to convict Middleton of murder. The Trinity County man killed Dody Peroutka last April as she was leaving the restroom in a Trinity County bar.

After the shooting, Middleton spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital after being found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Middleton's family believes he should not be held in prison. They were hoping he would be placed in a treatment facility for the mentally unstable.

Less than a month before his 19th birthday, Middleton took the stand in his own defense, asking jurors to consider boot camp as punishment for his crime.

Middleton also told Dody Peroutka's family he was truly sorry for their loss and didn't mean to hurt anyone the day he shot and killed her, even though he unloaded two full clips - 30 rounds each - into his neighbor's yard.

Vicki Smilie, Middleton's aunt, said, "This boy is worth saving. He can be restructured. He can be rehabilitated, but not in TDC (Texas Department of Criminal Justice). He will never make it in TDC."

Middleton broke down in court as his mother told jurors about the remorse her son feels for taking a woman's life.

Nicki Sides said, "I just don't want people to think my son's a murderer, which he's not. If he'd been on his medication; if he'd stayed with me [the shooting would not have happened]. The reason he didn't stay with me - he asked me if he could bring an AK-47 to the house and I said, 'definitely not,' and he said, 'well, I'll go live with Daddy so I can shoot it'."

A psychologist from Conroe told the court his competency and sanity evaluations of Middleton revealed many disorders, including ADHD, post-traumatic stress, and major depression, problems his family believes are being ignored by the judicial system and his own father, who didn't keep up with his son's medications and even promised him an AK-47 if he moved to Trinity.

"My son needs mental help," said Sides. "He needs psychiatrists and therapists, and he needs to be monitored. And he needs to be where he can't be around his father."

Danny Middleton would not talk about his son on camera, but told jurors his son did not have a lot of supervision at home, and said the shooting happened because Tommy "just flipped out" because he was off his medication.

Fifty-year-old Dody Peroutka died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. She was not Middleton's intended target. Middleton unloaded dozens of rounds into his neighbor's home because he was worried the family would hurt a pet alligator he kept in a pond behind their home.