• December 21, 2014

Killeen man guilty on assault charge; could get life

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 4:30 am

BELTON — A Bell County jury Tuesday found a Killeen man guilty of assaulting a disabled woman during a domestic argument last year.

Willie Lee Ockletree, 44, was convicted on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The charges stem from an incident where Ockletree attacked and threatened Debbie Sweet, his girlfriend, on the night of March 12.

Sweet, who was confined to a wheelchair when she took the stand, testified that Ockletree held her face down on the bed with a pillow, grabbed a knife and threatened to kill her.

She also testified that she and Ockletree were drinking and using drugs that evening.

Ockletree’s defense attorney argued that his client did not have a knife in his hand when he threatened to kill Sweet, but picked it up after he heard a noise at a nearby window.

In addition to witness testimony, prosecutors presented several letters and portions of phone calls made by Ockletree to Sweet after his arrest.

In one of the recordings played for jurors, Ockletree said he only put the pillow over Sweet’s head “for a second.” He then said he “got rid” of the knife, which police later recovered.

“These are his words,” lead prosecutor Shelley Strimple told jurors in her closing statement. “He admits it.”

In other phone recordings, Ockletree tried to persuade Sweet to speak with his lawyer and change her story.

“How can you say you care about me if you tell those folks the truth,” Ockletree asked in one of the calls.

Ockletree also sent Sweet numerous letters from Bell County Jail.

In one letter, Ockletree offered to share an inheritance with her, and later sent a power of attorney form to Sweet.

The jury that convicted Ockletree also will have to determine his sentence.

Testimony in the sentencing phase began Tuesday afternoon, and will continue today.

Because he has two previous felony convictions for burglaries in 1988 and 1991, Ockletree could face a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison. The maximum sentence he faces is life in prison.

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