Top Trials of 2004

by Ramonica R. Jones

In May, an Angelina County jury could not reach a verdict in the trial of a Groveton man accused of shooting his in-laws. After several hours of deliberating, it was a hung jury in the trial of Eric Lee Holcombe.

Police charged him with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities say he shot his mother and father-in-law last year in Lufkin. His father-in-law shot back, hitting Holcombe.

Investigators say the shooting was part of an ongoing domestic dispute. Court records show the Holcombes were in the midst of a divorce, and a Trinity County judge had ordered them not to contact each other.

A new trial is expected to start soon. Holcombe faces between two to 20 years in prison.

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In July, a Crockett jury gave Barney Fuller Jr. the death penalty for killing his neighbors last year. Fuller pleaded guilty to two counts of capital murder for the May 2003 deaths of Annette and Nathan Copeland in their Lovelady home. It took the jury less than two hours to reach a decision.

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In August, a death sentence was handed down for convicted murderer Beunka Adams. He could have gotten life in prison, but after more than 12 hours of deliberation, the jury decided he deserved to die.

Adams and another man robbed a convenience store in Rusk, kidnapped two employees and a customer, then shot all three with a shotgun. The customer, Kenneth Vandever, later died.

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In September, 18-year-old Felicia Pelzel confessed to suffocating a two-year-old girl. A judge sentenced her to 57 years in prison.

Pelzel was babysitting Bailey Heald when she heard the child screaming. She told police she held the baby down to try to get her to sleep. Pelzel says the girl never woke up. She'll have to serve a fourth of her sentence before she's eligible for parole.

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Eighteen-year-old Shelacey Beck will spend the next 20 years in prison for raping a seven-year-old relative. Beck was first accused of having sex with the boy back in January. The abuse wasn't discovered until the boy reportedly got sick with gonorrhea.