Not Guilty: Jury returns verdict in Lufkin murder trial

Published: Mar. 3, 2010 at 3:59 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2010 at 10:10 PM CST
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By Jena Johnson - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A Lufkin man walks free. A jury has decided Deandre Thomas is not guilty of murdering his father-in-law. Thomas had maintained, the March 2008 stabbing was in self-defense. Wednesday afternoon both families waited for hours for the verdict. They said it was the longest wait of their life.

"Right now it kind of makes me feel like the night they called me and told me he had been stabbed," said Frankie Landers, widow.

With waiting, comes tears. Landers said her world collapsed two years ago, the day her husband, Larry Landers, was stabbed to death.

"I've been flashing back on my husband, the fun times we had," said Landers. "It seems like he's just with me."

Down the hall, there was a different kind of waiting. Accused killer Deandre Thomas held his head in his hands. His father, Doyle Thomas, waited too.

"It's just given me a hard time, you know, to go through with this," said Doyle Thomas.

He tells KTRE the past few hours have been excruciating. But getting the verdict he wanted was worth the wait.

"Well, you be wondering the decision that they going to make," said Thomas. "It's his life at stake you know."

For Landers, the pain of waiting will never end. "I don't feel like it will ever go away," she said.

As unbearable as is it may be for Landers' widow, the waiting is now over for Thomas and his family. He's a free man.

Editor's note: KTRE's Jena Johnson gave updates to the trial at on Wednesday. Below are her updates.

Prosecuting attorney Tony Latino, told the jury the state proved that Thomas took the life of Larry Landers.

"At some point in time he continually stabbed Mr. Landers to death," said Latino. "He had the opportunity to throw the knife or throw it under a car, but he didn't."

Latino said this crime was clearly not self-defense. "This self-defense issue no longer exists because there's no longer an immediate necessity for the actor to use deadly force," he said.

Latino told the jury once the knife was in the hands of Thomas, he was no longer in fear because he had the knife.

As a final plea to the jury, Latino showed them photographs of Landers' stab wounds.

"He had ten stab wounds," said Latino. "He had another four or five punctured wounds. He had trailing knife marks across his chest."

Defense attorney, John Tunnel, told the jury that his client did what he did because he thought it was necessary to protect himself.

He said it was Landers who provoked the fight.

"Mr. Landers kept coming over and over and over again," said Tunnel. "He kept charging [Thomas]."

He said despite testimony concerning Landers' medical conditions, several witnesses from both the state and defense testified Landers' held his own in the fight.

"He came at him [Thomas]," Tunnel told the jury. "What other purpose than murder would someone come at someone with a knife other than murder?" Tunnel asked the jury.

After the defense wrapped their closing argument,  the prosecution begged the jury to hold Deandre Thomas accountable for the stabbing death of his father-in-law, Larry Landers.

Both families are waiting in the courtroom halls for the jury's decision. Thomas is sitting beside his parents, who have supported their son throughout the past two years leading to his trial. In previous testimony, Thomas' father, Doyle Thomas, insisted Landers had verbally threatened his son's life prior to the deadly fight in March 2008.

Before the not guilty verdict, Thomas faced the possibility of spending the remainder of his days behind bars.

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