By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – After six murder trials in 2007, the Bell County Justice Complex already has eight scheduled in the first five months of 2008. Prosecutors say more are on the way.
Killeen's Kahtisha Shontel McKnight, 25, who is charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter on May 18, 2007, is set to go to trial Jan. 28. Assistant District Attorney Mike Waldman, serving as lead prosecutor on the case, confirmed Friday that hers will be the first murder trial of 2008 as subpoenas have been issued to witnesses.
According to court records, McKnight's daughter, Jameisha, had a fractured skull and died from blunt-force trauma to the head. McKnight's story of how her daughter sustained the injury changed as she told three varying accounts.
The affidavit stated that medical records show the description of the trauma isn't consistent with the severity of the child's injuries.
McKnight's trial is one of three scheduled in January, but the other two will be rescheduled.
The trial of Dan Edward Tennon, 30, of Killeen, is scheduled to start Jan. 14, but it was assigned to Assistant District Attorney Mark Kimball, who retired at the end of 2007 for health reasons.
Assistant District Attorney Paul McWilliams has taken over much of Kimball's caseload. McWilliams said he has spoken with Tennon's defense attorney, and the trial will be reset to a later date.
Tennon is charged with first-degree murder in connection with an Aug. 8, 2006, assault in which Clifton Carruthers was beaten with a pistol.
Carruthers was hospitalized and remained comatose until he died June 7, 2007, 10 months after the attack. Medical examiners ruled that Carruthers' death was caused by the original assault.
Also likely to be reset is the trial of murder suspect Placido Grimaldo-Savala, which was also assigned to Kimball and scheduled to start Jan. 28.
Placido Grimaldo, aka Plasido Zavala, 33, of Temple, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Roberto Flores on July 21, 2006. Belen Torres Salazar, who witnessed the shooting, told Temple police that Grimaldo and Flores had argued about money.
The McKnight trial likely will be followed by the trial of Temple's Chauncey Eugene Wilson, 45, who is charged with murder in the March 16 fatal shooting of 42-year-old Temple resident Ray Lee Taplin.
First Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe, who is trying that case, said he expects the trial to begin Feb. 4, as scheduled.
Wilson's co-defendant, Jasmine Randolph Alexander of Waco, is in custody at the Bell County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond. Bledsoe said that although Alexander's pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7, 2007, on the same murder charge, he expects a plea agreement to be reached.
A pretrial hearing for Rigoberto Martinez Jr., 18, is scheduled for Feb. 20. Martinez, a California resident, was indicted in connection with the death of Goldsin Nimnuan, 25, which occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 12, 2007, at the victim's residence in Killeen, the first murder of last year.
Joe Castillo, 28, of Harker Heights, is scheduled to go to trial March 3 for killing 26-year-old Joshua Montague at the Hallmark Inn on June 8, 2007. According to an affidavit, a confidential informant and witness to the shooting told police that Castillo and Montague were preparing to have a pre-arranged fistfight, which never took place. Police raided Castillo's home on June 9, where they found evidence of drugs.
Antonio Darius Page, 20, is also scheduled to go to trial March 3 for shooting Jophlyn Long outside a Killeen nightclub April 23, 2006. According to the arrest affidavit, the victim and a group of friends went to City Lights in Killeen, where Page was with a female. After the shooting, Long's mother stated that she received a phone call from Page telling her that he had shot her 19-year-old son. Page and Long knew each other and had gone to school together.
The only scheduled capital murder trial is that of Jason Robert Dowling, 27, of Belton, set to begin March 3. Dowling is charged as an accomplice of Roy Andrew Lewis, 31, of Harker Heights, who was found guilty of capital murder last year in the shooting death of 25-year-old Les Rash Jr. in 2005.
Dowling is accused of taking part in the killing and the subsequent cover-up. This trial was originally scheduled to start Nov. 1, 2005. It was moved back to March 5, 2007, and then to March 3 of this year. Assistant DA Mike Waldman, who prosecuted Lewis last year, said he expects Dowling to be tried in March.
The final trial on the current docket is that of Joe Angel Roberts, 29, of Killeen, who is charged with murder in the death of Kathy Parker, 26, of Killeen. His trial is scheduled to begin May 5.
On July 21, 2006, the Killeen Fire and Police departments responded to the report of a structure fire at Speedy Pawn Shop No. 1 at 718 W. Rancier Ave. Parker's body was pulled from the burning building, and she was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Roberts wasn't charged with the murder for more than a year as Killeen investigators pieced the evidence together and coordinated it with witness testimony.
Bledsoe said he and District Attorney Henry Garza are interviewing candidates to fill the opening created by Kimball's retirement. Meanwhile, those cases must be reassigned.
"Right now, Paul McWilliams and Stephanie Newell are covering his cases," Bledsoe said Thursday. "We plan on disposing of them as quickly as we can. They're maybe some we have to put off for a little bit so that we can resolve later."
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568