Two weeks into his jury selection, Eric Parnell has been sentenced to life in prison for the capital murder of Ana Franklin. He shot and killed the Garrison woman last year and then shot, kidnapped, and raped her cousin.
The women had just left a convenience store in Pollok when they were attacked by Parnell. The unexpected plea came just days before a jury was picked for his trial.
Stephen Taylor said, "He conferred with his family, his mother, his grandmother, his father, his aunt in making his decision. The option has been open to him for a long time, and he finally decided today to take control and make sure that his life would be saved by entering a plea of guilty and taking a capital life sentence with an aggravated [sexual assault] life sentence stacked on top of that."
Defense Attorney Stephen Taylor said Parnell was calm while listening to jurors answer questions about murder and the death penalty. He believes his client is remorseful because he took a life, not because he is now spending life in prison.
"We're very sorry for what happened," said Taylor. "Of course, we have no control over it as far as Mr. Parnell's actions. He's very sorry for it also. It should not have happened, and it will never happen again, because he will be in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the rest of his life."
The prosecution believes, had the case gone to trial, a jury would have sentenced Parnell to death.
District Attorney Clyde Herrington said, "There's a lot of evidence in this case, a lot of witnesses, a lot of things that they went over with him. So, it was not a hasty decision on their part, and I feel strongly that, in all likelihood, a jury - after hearing this evidence - would have assessed the death penalty."
Parnell won't be eligible for parole until he's spent 70 years in prison. Under the plea agreement, he has to serve at least 30 years on the sex assault charge and 40 years on the capital murder charge.
Jury selection was expected to wrap up next week. That's when the victims' families are set to give witness impact statements in court. Parnell's trial was set to begin January 8th in Lufkin.