BELTON — The 27th Judicial District Court in Belton became so packed with members of three families and friends, all seeking to support their loved ones during a murder sentencing hearing on Thursday morning, that court officials decided to move the hearing to a larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd.
Olishea Lashawn Smith, 30, of Waco, is facing life in prison after pleading guilty in June to a double murder in Harker Heights that happened last year. Smith shot and killed Dexter Lamont Prather, 42, of Waco, and Damion Hopkins, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo., at a Heights nightclub on March 4, 2017.
During the sentencing hearing in the 146th District Court that is scheduled for later this afternoon, the state plans to call eight witnesses, said Assistant District Attorney Mike Waldman.
The defense plans to call between eight and 12 people to speak about Smith, including family, friends and co-workers, said Smith’s defense attorney, David Hudson of Waco. The courtroom was full of supporters of Smith, with one man wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with "Free O" on the back.
The first-degree felonies carry a sentencing range of five to 99 years to life in prison, Waldman said, previously. The guilty plea was not part of a plea deal arrangement, he said.
Prather and Hopkins were reportedly involved in an altercation at Club Empire at 300 W. Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Harker Heights when they were shot.
A surveillance video provided to police by one of the club’s managers showed that at about 5:15 a.m., a woman later identified as Smith, pulled out a handgun and fired multiple rounds that hit Hopkins and Prather. Smith then left the club, an arrest affidavit said.
Smith wore a distinctive colored dress that later helped witnesses identify her as the woman they saw fire the shots. The witnesses looked at a known photo of the woman and compared it to the woman in the video, and they all identified Smith as the one who pulled the gun out and shot and killed Hopkins.
Family and friends rushed Hopkins to Seton Medical Center–Harker Heights, where he died. Prather died at the scene.
Both men were pronounced dead by Bell County Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown.
Smith later surrendered to Harker Heights police detectives.
This story will be updated.