BELTON — In front of a packed courtroom, Patrice Winbush sat on the witness stand and answered questions about her mother Francine.
Francine Winbush sometimes worked 16 hour days as a nurse to put her two daughters through private school in Chicago after her husband died. She moved to Texas to help Patrice Winbush raise her family as she studied for her doctorate in social work.
“She was our rock, the matriarch of our family. She was my best friend,” Patrice Winbush said.
Francine Winbush and her boyfriend of 15 years Michael Lockett were killed in Killeen on Nov. 13, 2015, when a black Chevy Camaro driven by Alexis Jillian Woods crashed into the side of their Ford Taurus while racing another car. Woods’ sentencing began Thursday, but went into recess around 4:30 p.m. at the request of her attorney Buck Harris. It will resume Monday at 10 a.m.
Woods and Tyrone Floyd Moore Jr. each pleaded guilty to one charge of racing on a highway causing serious injury or death. Woods also pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Both are second-degree felonies.
Woods and Moore drove separate cars on Trimmier Road during the crash. Data collected by police from the black box in Woods’ vehicle showed that 5 seconds before the crash, the car was traveling at 118 mph. A half-second before the crash, the car slowed to 97 mph. According to data from Esurance, a car traveling at 60 mph takes 4.6 seconds to come to a stop. Woods’ car was traveling almost twice that speed.
Moore was driving a Dodge Charger, which did not crash, according to police. After the wreck, he pulled over and went to the accident scene.
Both Woods and Moore were in Bell County Jail after they were arraigned on the racing charges, but posted bond and were released. Then, when Woods was indicted on a manslaughter charge, she was arrested again and placed in the Bell County Jail. She was released in March, and was allowed to finish school at Harker Heights High School. She is set to receive her diploma, Harris said.
Woods took to the witness stand toward the end of the sentencing. Crying, she said that she was sorry for what she did, and said that she had been offered the opportunity to speak to teenagers at the Harker Heights Driving School and tell them her story.
“Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made,” she said she told them. “I feel terrible for both my family and the family that I hurt.”
Harris asked her if she was prepared to tell people that because of her mistakes, she was now a killer. She sobbed and nodded yes.
“Because that is true, you are a killer,” he said.
Harris pointed toward Woods’ home life as an explanation for why she drove so recklessly. Woods’ mother and father were divorced, and Harris said that she was often kicked around “like a soccer ball between mom and dad.”
“It’s obvious that Samantha Woods overindulged you in every way possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, Patrice Winbush watched Woods on the witness stand with a pensive look on her face and her foot bouncing up and down nervously.
The 264th courtroom was filled with people, many of them who looked close to Woods in age. Throughout the testimony, sobs could be heard, and Woods’ parents and brother were in attendance.
When asked what made Woods decide to plead guilty, her attorney, Buck Harris, declined to comment.
Moore is scheduled to be sentenced May 26.